Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns says more needs to be done to encourage one-club players, as Penrith faces a battle to retain all its State of Origin stars.
The Panthers have seven players lining up in the opening Origin match, a situation coach Ivan Cleary says is likely to cause the club salary cap grief now that representative bonuses have been triggered.
Cleary said the NRL should consider allowing representative bonuses to be paid outside the salary cap.
While he’s in favour of reform, that’s a situation Johns thinks is unworkable.
“I understand what Ivan’s saying, but they’ll find a way to manipulate it,” he said on his Wide World of Sports program Immortal Behaviour.
“Especially the managers. Instead of signing someone for five-hundred (thousand) we’ll sign him for four-hundred, and if he plays Origin we’ll give him a bonus of $150,000.
“There’s a way they’ll manipulate it somehow.”
The salary cap is $9.02 million in 2021. On top of that is an allowance of around $200,000 for players the club developed, or who have been in the club’s top 30 for eight years or more.
And that’s the area Johns would like to see changed, to ensure clubs can keep their local juniors.
“I don’t care about salary caps, I don’t care about bonuses, I just want to see the best players play for one club,” he said.
“Nathan (Cleary) should never play for another club, Jarome Luai is a local junior, should never play for another club.
“Brian To’o is from Mount Druitt, the same as Jarome – he should never play for another club.”
The Adam Reynolds saga could have been avoided had Johns’ suggested reforms been implemented.
The 30year-old is a South Sydney junior who has given more than two decades of service to the area.
He’s played more than 200 first-grade games for the club since debuting in 2012, and scored 14 points in the Rabbitohs’ 2014 grand final win over the Bulldogs.
Yet he’s signed a three-year deal with Brisbane from 2022, forced out of Souths after the club baulked at offering him a contract longer than 12 months.
The Rabbitohs were concerned about a potential payout should Reynolds’ battered body not be able to continue beyond 2022, a situation that conveniently ignores the fact that the halfback has given his all for the club over so many years.
Instead of being rewarded for his loyalty, Reynolds has been forced out.
“Adam Reynolds, I’ve been quite vocal about that,” Johns said.
“Grown up in the local area, won a comp, played first grade for 10 years, and he’s been squeezed out.
“It’s just ridiculous. Fans want their local juniors, or players who’ve stayed there for a long time.
“The last year or two, they shouldn’t even be in the salary cap.”
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