all change here?


by Colin Whelan
by Colin Whelan

All Change Here?

Did you read Ricky Stuart’s comments last weekend regarding the need for a return of the old reserve grade competition? I must confess I didn’t but I would like to point out that there are way more people who have made the same call over recent seasons.

I can only suggest that Ricky and those others do realise that there already is a reserve grade or 2nd tier open age competition both in NSW and Qld so that the call is really for an amended competition at that level.

It’s an understandable call and one that the NRL are investigating through consultation with all parties concerned throughout this season. Their findings will be highly anticipated as it could make significant differences to our great sport at many levels and many facets.

The basic concern of some is that we are not producing enough “ready to play NRL standard players”. The question again is a good one and in R Stuart’s case, with the roster he has at Parramatta we can all see he is probably right. However the Eels are not the whole of the league and certainly not an accurate microcosm of the talent base across footy in almost all clubs except for Parra. An almost decade of neglect and associated haphazard recruitment policy due to an under pressure administration and several changes of coaches and assorted personnel will do that to your club!

But what of the other clubs and what are the proposed upgrades to generate more ready to play NRL players? Well the Raiders, Storm and Warriors seem to have a different view of the current comp. All based where the 2nd tier standard would be way too low, they all make arrangements of some kind to get their non-selected players a better level of competition by association with NSWRL. They still may want change but it’s a reasonable argument that they think enough of it to send their players, or in Auckland’s case a whole team, to play in NSW Cup.

The beef with it seems to be that because the matches are not played prior to NRL matches the players can’t get motivated or don’t feel like they belong to the parent club because they are wearing Newtown or Wentworthville colours.

These lines of argument are real and deserve to be listened to but so too does a reflection of fairly recent history. I can remember vividly the empty stadiums as out of form or returning from injury NRL guys starred in reserve grade played immediately before the first grade. It certainly didn’t appear to me to make that much difference to the match standard.

Nor did the colour of the jersey they were wearing.

Perhaps there are  financial changes that may be suggested by those who would like a return to the old reserve grade style competition. I am not exactly sure how that would work but it would require more players on full time salaries if that team is to travel all over every weekend. Personally I think the cost for players at that level to replace the NYC competition will likely be double or treble. The NYC cap is very small $300,000-400,000 in most cases.

In 2006 one NRL club was spending in excess of a million on second tier players prior to NYC! It makes sense that players over 20 required for full time training will want more than under 20 players who are either full time or in many instances very part time with study apprenticeships or traineeships.

If those players to perform in a return to the old reserve grade comp are not to be full time, will they gain great benefit or offer a more ready to play NRL player than under the current system? I am not sure there would be a great deal of difference in anything except the substantial cost factor.

I believe Penrith have already made a decision to reclaim their players to field 3 grades at all of their home match days next season. I don’t know the system of contracting or training regimes they will put in place but I reckon it will be a great model for all others to monitor.

Good on them for having a crack at something old is new again.

Personally I found the Roosters/Newtown Jets model to be very effective. From a cost, admin, footy development of individual players and success of both clubs point of view also every aspect seemed to work well. I put that down to some years of continuous harmony and cohesion at almost all levels. In the end I felt most of Roosters players put in for themselves, teammates and that great old club and its tremendous people who run it so well.

A look at Roosters player list currently suggests that both NYC and “reserve grade” at Jets has offered a great structure to prepare young players to develop and older players to perform and bounce back to NRL quickly.

  • Roger T-S
  • SKD
  •  Daniel Toupou
  • Jake Friend
  • Boyd Cordner
  • Dylan Napa
  • Aiden Guerra
  • Mitchell Aubusson
  • Daniel Mortimer
  • Frank Paul Nuuasala
  • Martin Kennedy
  • Isaac Liu

These guys are NRL ready and have all done lengthy apprenticeships through the Jets.

Bottom line: no matter what system is in vogue it will work best with co-operation, intelligence, belief and hard work from all involved. System change won’t save anyone’s bacon or excite our future fans with tremendous young players without those human commodities.