Rugby League and player contracts: community standards v player rights again!

In case you missed it, Daly Cherry-Evans of the Manly Sea Eagles announced yesterday evening after his team’s round one loss to the Parramatta Eels that he has signed a lengthy contract to play with the Gold Coast Titans in 2016.  

That’s right: the best player on a team in the NRL who is contracted to play for them for the whole of 2015 has already signed a contract to play in 2016 and beyond with a direct competitor.  

I have long been an opponent of the contracting system in the NRL.  It is just, for want of a better term, stupid to grant players an absolute right to negotiate a contract any time they want.  It is not in the interests of the code or the club for which the player is currently contracted too. 

What I struggle with most here is the notion that a player (Cherry-Evans is but one) will spend the whole season playing for another team whilst a direct oppontent awaits his services in 12 months time.  When I think about the business I am in and what would happen in the same scenario I am just gobsmacked.  I am a director of a large accounting firm.  If I was to resign on Monday to go and do exactly the same job with a direct competitor I know that my employer and most like mine would simply pay out my notice period and show me the door.  The other option would be that I am given no work to do and left to look out a window for my notice period. 

There is no neferious reason for this, rather simply why would my employer keep me on the tools when I am going to a direct competitor at some point in time in the near future? 

This is the same scenario as with any rugby league player who signs a contract like Cherry-Evans has isn’t it? When Anthony Milford did the same thing to the Canberra Raiders last year I suggested that he should either be released immediately from his contract OR sent back to the lower grades to mark out his time.  

I am at a loss to understand, yet again, why a rugby league player has any heightened rights than a normal punter in the street when it comes employment conditions?  Is there anyone out there in the community who has signed a contract with a competitor in the same industry and the same market to commence in 12 months time and kept their job?  Of course there isn’t because in the “real” world that notion is just ridiculous! 

At the moment players seem to have the NRL and clubs over a barrel when it comes to negotiating contracts.  I say kudos to them for having good negotiators and lawyers.  Equally, I am left to wonder again when some form of status quo between the rights of the player and the interests of the code will be reached.  If such a status quo is not reached fans are going to (continue to in my view) vote with their wallets and stop coming to games. 

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