EDITORIAL | Code-switching and punishments for breaking contract

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The National Rugby League has been shocked once again with a big name star changing codes without much warning and/or hiccups about breaking out of the sport while contracted.

Is there needed loyalty to the league while having a ban or punishment in place for those who leave their club agreements early for not only another team but to jump to a different code?

Current contract breaking over the entire league.

It’s no new situation that the current landscape of contracts for both players and coaches across the league are constantly being broken. The players are regularly being shopped around with no regard for their fans being left in disbelief whether the agreements are set in stone ever, with now more movement across the NRL being the norm.

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The patience of fans is running thin with no rules currently in place for players who break a contract – and a high profile one at that. The view that a player who is paid a multi-million dollar contract is able to change club within even a few months of seeing out that contract – and creating the circus-like rotation that many are becoming fed up with because there are no consequences in place. The time is now for the league’s integrity unit to step up and form a club-wide agreement that will have those responsible for holding a player within a agreement to see out a certain period, for not only the fans but the balance of the NRL from becoming a top-heavy competition, which would prevent heavyweight clubs from poaching big-name players at a discount constantly and those players being paid by more than one club.

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Code hoppers in recent times and the implications its had

There have been many rugby league code hoppers in the last 10 to 15 years, many have moved over to play rugby union with others joining the AFL and NFL.

Most of these athletes have been high-profile players at the moment of their departure, which has created voids in clubs and the NRL in general; the most notable Jarryd Hayne leaving the Parramatta Eels for San Fransisco 49ers in the NFL, and the multiple players who left to play for the Australian Wallabies such as Mat Rogers, Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor, Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt and Marika Koroibete. These players have featured in the highest of honours of rugby league with Dally M’s and positional awards while also playing Origin and Test football; these men moved codes at times where they felt their careers were just flourishing and wanted new challenges to become a bigger individual across multiple games.

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Solutions for the ongoing rise of breaking contracts and code-switching.

The problem that the NRL has had is not just lacking attention to these players to have them stay in the league, but also trouble to lure them back. The option of them being able to come back to rugby league must be too easy an avenue that they still don’t wish to take, whether it’s for financial reasons or just lack of interest in the game. Rugby league needs to create a barrier which these elite players find hard to leave while also having trouble coming back, damaging their clubs’ chances of a title while also belittling the NRL.

A recent announcement from Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes has shone a light to this issue with not only beginning the switch to NFL but also breaking his current contract with a year still left, leaving a substantial hole for Cronulla to fill in their off-season. If the league is to survive and stamp out these problems it has with the higher profile players, punishments – such as a ban for the time still in the contract- must be visited or another cooling-off period by which the player can not return due to the damage that was done to their current agreements and the ones with the NRL.

If the league is to become more professional, the current system allows players to jump around without any consequences and needs to be addressed. The stars that are being grown in the NRL are a huge drawing point for fans, clear-cut guidelines towards contracts have to be produced before the landscape becomes one-sided in powerhouse teams are able to afford more stars through broken contracts but also teams suffering from players leaving without any problems.

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