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Time for the marquee player in Super League?

Super League has long been the understudy to the NRL, with the English game seen as a place where aging Australians can ply their trade entering the twilight of their careers. Rugby league can only dream of the level of coverage and attendances which grace the stands at rugby union games week in week out. But could that all begin to change with the introduction of the marquee player ruling?

Said ruling would mean each club competing in the Super League would be allowed one player whose salary would be exempt from the current £1.8 million salary cap regulations. Salford Red Devils owner Dr Marwan Koukash has long championed the need for such a ruling since taking over the club. He along with several other clubs the likes of Leeds, Warrington and Wigan are all in favour, however have failed to get the legislation passed.

Wigan Warriors only last month brought back star player Sam Tomkins back from the NRL where he was granted early release from his contract with the New Zealand Warriors. Incidentally the 2012 Man of Steel was Super League highest earner leading up to his departure and it makes you wonder if Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan is expecting the marquee player ruling to come into force easing their salary cap somewhat.

Such a ruling of course would divide fans across the county but let’s look at the positives. Our friends across the other code have been turning the heads of our finest players for a number of years with the likely reason being money, but a marquee player would be an incentive to keep the stars of our game in our sport. Alternatively the ruling would allow Super League teams to look at bringing rugby union players across to our sport – merely returning the favour you might say. Consequentially if all twelve teams had the calibre of player such as a George Burgess it would lead to more sponsorship, better coverage of the sport as a whole and in turn higher attendances.

With anything there are also negatives, the less financially backed teams, the likes of Wakefield, may struggle to fund a marquee player and thus putting them at a direct disadvantage from the ruling. There has been suggestions that a way around this would be for that club to sell that spot to other clubs in order to finance their own. Whilst this seems like a good idea on paper, what’s to stop a wealthy investor buying a club and offering every other team an offer they can’t refuse? Thus assembling a rugby league dream team. This would stagnate the competition and slowly be the death of Super League as attendees dwindle. If we are to go down the likely route of a marquee player clubs shouldn’t be able to buy or sell their slot but merely have it there to use for themselves.

Whatever your thoughts are on the marquee player ruling, the likes of George Burgess, Greg Inglis and Jonathan Thurston potentially gracing the turfs of Super League may become a reality in the not too distance future.

Published on May 12 2015 for Rugby AM.

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