Allow NRL stars overseas 'in off-season' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Allow NRL stars overseas 'in off-season'

By Todd Balym 13/07/2008 06:48:15 PM Comments (0)

St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust says the only way the NRL will keep stars from defecting overseas is to allow them to play there in the off-season and hope they come back.

With his club captain Mark Gasnier on the verge of walking out to join French rugby union club Stade Francais, under former NSW Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie, Doust wants the NRL to give players more freedom to earn extra money outside of the NRL season.

He says NRL clubs will never be able to compete with the money on offer in league and union in Europe and the best they can do to retain key players is to convince them to limit themselves to off-season stints offshore to top up their earnings.

He says the argument that the NRL can keep replacing the star talent that departs is based solely on the fact nobody has an answer to stop the exodus.

"I have spoken about letting these players play both," he said.

"I don't think first class athletes really need the pre-season, why can't they play both.

"That is the only way that we could get these athletes that are a feature of our game to stay in our game.

"If they're athletic enough to be able to grow their earning capacity I don't think we should stand in their way.

"We just can't sort of avoid it and say it's going to fix itself because it's not.

"I think we have to be a little bit more flexible in the way we treat these athletes."

Gasnier is believed close to walking out of the NRL because his five-year contract with the Dragons has fallen down in third party payments, costing him $1 million.

He refused to discuss reports suggesting he'd decided to leave the Dragons, but confirmed a decision was imminent.

French rugby clubs have until July 14 to confirm their squads for next season.

"There will be a resolution. Hopefully sooner rather than later but as yet nothing is done," said Gasnier.

"It is about contract negotiations and stuff not being honoured. It has nothing to do with being disillusioned (with the NRL and rugby league)."

Dragons coach Nathan Brown says the player exodus overseas is understandable as the money on offer in England and France is far greater than in the NRL.

"It is always about the money, that is what life is about. Everyone goes where they get the cash," said Brown.

"As long as they offer more money than clubs can afford to pay the players are always going to leave, it is the reality of life."

Dragons prop Jason Ryles and Penrith's Luke Rooney are two NRL players definitely heading to France next year.

Ryles is linking with league club Les Catalans while Rooney is defecting to union for a deal reportedly worth the equivalent of $1.3 million over two years.

But Ryles insists the figures bandied about are not genuine and moving overseas isn't always about the cash.

"I can tell you for a fact the figures that get tossed around aren't anywhere near those that we get," said Ryles.

"If I was getting what they were tossing up I would have swum there for that."

But unlike his club boss, Ryles isn't concerned about the future of the NRL if the player exodus continues.

"The game is just going to keep producing, it's not like we're going to run out of players," said Ryles.

"There's going to be another guy like Mark Gasnier come along.

"It's not the be all and end all if our stars go, there is going to be other blokes replace them."

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