Lockyer says don't bend rules for stars - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer says don't bend rules for stars

By Wayne Heming 16/07/2008 08:03:56 PM Comments (0)

Australian captain Darren Lockyer has called for an end to the Mark Gasnier hysteria, warning league officials not to cripple their great product to stop a handful of players chasing massive overseas deals.

Lockyer adopted a more conservative stance than his Test and Queensland stand-in Cameron Smith who revealed representative players could consider "striking" unless paid more money.

With salary caps of $4.1 million, NRL clubs can't compete with the huge overseas offers without risking going to the wall.

"We can't bend the rules just for a dozen or so players at the risk of potentially crippling the great product we have," said Lockyer at a World Cup promotion in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Lockyer, understood to have rejected a massive $750,000 a year overseas offer himself a few years ago, said rugby league had to live with the reality players would get offers that could lure them from the game.

"The decision has been made, we should move on," said Lockyer, who has played 27 Origins for Queensland and 36 Tests for Australia.

"We can't bend the rules for a dozen players at the risk of potentially crippling the great product we have.

"I'd hate to see us starting to pay big money to players that we can't afford and the game suffers.

"We want to keep some of our big names in the game but Gaz is going to leave and there'll be someone come along and replace him."

Lockyer said players would always have to weigh up lifestyle changes and walking away from state and Australian jerseys when tempted by big dollars.

"Obviously Gasnier preferred to do away with those things and do well for himself overseas and I wish him good luck," he said.

He agreed with Australian coach Ricky Stuart that the players needed a bigger slice of the pie when possible.

"I agree with Ricky that we have to create a larger pie if we are to compete against overseas and be able to offer players more money," he said.

"But we can't offer money that's not there.

"We can't cripple the game to hold a dozen players."

He said the players' union had been across the problem and agreed if the money was available the players should share in it.

"But if it's not, we're happy to do our bit to try and grow the game," he said.

"It's no secret international football is not as strong as Origin.

"But the World Cup is a great platform to start getting the profile of the international game going again and try and generate some more funds through that."

Stuart - who refused to say if Gasnier would be part of his October World Cup side after accepting a reported $1 million a season deal from French rugby club Stade Francais - admitted he was "scared" league's young stars could be targeted.

"We can't contest the kind of money that's being tossed around," Stuart said.

"What I'm scared about is it will happen to our young players more and more.

"Greg Inglis and Israel Folau are two names that come to mind.

"We used to see this at the back end of a footballer's NRL career but I'm worried it's going to happen to our younger players coming through.

"We have to put some strategies together to protect the young players we're developing.

"That's what it's all about, young players representing Australia, NSW and Queensland and clubs having the best talent, and we've got that in the NRL."

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