(Photo sourced from twitter.com)
If you have seen Brodie Croft play you will realize just how well the Grassroots football is working. It is a model that the NRL have to make sure they continue if they want a conveyor belt of new exciting talent. At 19 years old Croft may be one of the most gifted players we have seen but the young talent does not just stop at Croft due to the NRL heavily investing in youth development.
With the NRL players in deep negotiations, it is vital that they get their collective bargaining correct for the future of the sport. At the moment the players are demanding that they get paid at least 29% of the revenue generated from games. Things are at a stalemate at present due to the NRL arguing that it is not possible to pay that amount.
The battle between the NRL and the players has the potential to destroy the game and unless both sides are willing to compromise it could damage the sport. The stumbling block at the moment is the NRL refusing to open up its books so that it allows complete transparency between the two parties. The players believe that the organization is squandering millions every year and want to find out exactly where the money is going. With the NRL compromising and allowing this, it looks like the battle between the two it will greatly damage the sport.
In order to appease the players, the NRL are going to have to come up with a lot more money to pay them. Many in the game are worried that this extra cash is going to be taken from the spending on grassroots development.
If the NRL want to develop more Brodie Crofts they need to continue the investment in youth. If that revenue is to dry up due to player demands then the league could go through the same problems that Union is now suffering from. The NRL need to learn from Unions mistakes if it will continue to grow.
Bill Pulver the ARU boss is in a battle to save his job at the moment due to killing off the sport at grassroots level. Instead of investing in youth the clubs piled all their money in élite programs which have failed to deliver. It has been a slow death for the sport as the decision was made back in 2003 to stop investment in grassroots and instead put money into élite program development.
It is going to take ARU a long time to recover from the mistake of not investing in grassroots rugby and if the NRL make the same mistake it could kill of both sports. The major problem with investing mainly in élite programs is that many players who develop at a later age were not getting picked up. The recruitment drive only focused on the players that were ready now and not look for the ones that have the development potential to be great.
The negotiation between the players and NRL is a pivotal moment in the history of the sport. If they get it right the sport can continue to thrive and develop the best players in the world. Get it wrong and we could see a slow painful death that Union is currently experiencing.
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