Clubs to be compensated for injured rep stars
NRL clubs will be able to sign a player worth up to $350,000 should one of their stars get injured during a representative match, according to a proposal endorsed by club bosses on Tuesday.
The salary cap relief is the first of its kind in the history of the game.
The development comes six months after the NRL declined a request from Canberra to sign a player following a major knee injury to star hooker Josh Hodgson during last year's World Cup.
It also comes just two weeks before the start of the State of Origin series, as well as the controversial Test between New Zealand and England in the United States.
NRL salary cap auditor Richard Gardham conceded part of the move was to discourage clubs from making their players unavailable for representative duty.
"There's a component there to support more rep football," Gardham said.
"There's a level of risk that clubs get there anyway regardless whether they come back with a long-term injury. All the stats point to fatigue factor and potential downside of performance for a period of time.
"In the case of this stuff, it just provides the additional comfort for clubs knowing that there are options out there to strengthen their squad if a player goes down with a long-term injury."
Under the proposal to be ticked off by the ARL Commission, the replacement can only be signed to a contract worth the same as the injured player up to $350,000 - the average salary of an NRL player.
He must also play the same position, be contracted until the end of the year, and the deal can't be front-loaded.
NRL officials looked at similar circumstances in overseas sporting codes and decided that the injured player must be sidelined for at least 12 rounds should a top-30 roster spot be available.
If the squad is full, the club can sign a 31st player so long as the injured player is ruled out for the year.
NRL chief operating officer Nick Weeks said clubs invest a lot of money into developing players.
"So it stands to reason that we would attempt to compensate them as much as possible for instances where their players have suffered long-term injuries while they are on representative duties," he said.
"Ultimate, we want to support representative football, but provide adequate on- field compensation."