Lockyer fears NRL could lose top stars - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer fears NRL could lose top stars

By Steve Jancetic 05/05/2010 07:56:03 PM Comments (0)

Australian skipper Darren Lockyer has implored the NRL to take immediate action to protect the game's top stars from being poached by rival codes.

Lockyer fears the two and a half year gap between now and the next television rights deal - and its resultant financial certainty - leaves the game wide open to poaching.

With Brisbane teammate Israel Folau seemingly poised to sign with new Super 15 franchise Melbourne Rebels and rugby union and AFL clubs salivating at the prospect of picking over the carcass that is the Melbourne Storm playing roster, Lockyer said the time to act was now.

The new television deal, with negotiations between broadcasters and the NRL set to start later this year, will not kick in until the 2013 season.

That leaves a two-year window in which Lockyer believes rugby league players will be seen as easy pickings.

"I don't know whether they can get the TV rights done earlier so that the players know that this is coming," Lockyer said in Melbourne on Wednesday.

"But right now there are players that are at risk of leaving and Israel's one at the moment.

"It'd be nice if we could step in and keep him in the game."

Lockyer's Test teammate Jarryd Hayne said he was amazed at the NRL's apparent lack of concern over the prospect of players chasing more money in rival codes or competitions.

Hayne reportedly turned down big money advances from new western Sydney AFL side GWS late last year to re-sign with Parramatta through to the end of the 2013 season, but fears the NRL has learnt nothing from his situation.

"It was like `if you're going to go, you're going to go. That was it," Hayne said of his discussions with the NRL during his contract negotiations.

"That was pretty much their reaction, and I sort of sat back and (thought) `geez, you really care about your players heaps.'

"I think the same thing with Izzy (Folau), the same think with Johnathan Thurston - how many more people do we need to lose?

"Two years is a long time and there's a lot of players off contract in the gap.

"Rugby league's such a great game ... but when you compare it to the AFL, we're just little kids compared to the AFL."

While the new television rights deal may be viewed by some as the NRL's panacea, just what it will deliver is still an unknown.

The NRL has said it's first port of call is for its club grants to match the salary cap, Lockyer admitting the players were in the dark as to just how big a bonanza they could expect.

"The TV rights deal is going to be big for the game," Lockyer said.

"What we want to see is that the right process happens in terms of the negotiation.

"I think the last one might not have been done in the best interests of everyone.

"We don't know the figures but it's pretty simple - we just need more money in the pot to give to the clubs."

Lockyer gave approval to a big lift in representative player payments, but admitted even that came with drawbacks.

"I think that's a definite way of retaining our best players," Lockyer said.

"(But) it's not guaranteed money because you could have a player who might be injured and might not play in the games."

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