Parramatta Eels coach Ricky Stuart says not enought NRL-standard players are coming through the ranks

Sam Burgess

South Sydney prop Sam Burgess has led the way for the new wave of English players coming to the NRL. Source: Getty Images

GARETH Hock and Lee Mossop are coming to Parramatta next season. Other English players are going to other NRL clubs.

For the first time in 40-odd years the NRL has had to look outside its own nursery, not simply for quality players – our competition has always been interested in quality – but to shore up rosters.

The NYC is not the right pathway to NRL football.

It is not developing as many NRL footballers as it should be given the money we invest in it.

The right pathway to first-grade football is to make NSW Cup our secondary competition, funding wise, so young players can get used to playing against men, which will create a greater depth of talent for the NRL.

One idea is to return NSW Cup to the game before NRL each round and make NYC a Wednesday night competition so it has a chance to stand out in its own right.

Some have even suggested we make it four-quarter football, which I like. Less fatigue will bring better concentration defensively, which better prepares them for the NRL. Too many NYC games resemble touch football. You score, I score.

I’d go as far as stopping any NYC players from going to first grade until they have played 15 games in NSW Cup.

The problem with making NYC our second tier competition is we are spending too much money on the best kids at our clubs. Because we have to invest so heavily in the more brilliant ones, their salaries often squeak them into the top 25 of our NRL roster.

Then, once we get the injuries all clubs get, we’re being faced with situations where we have to use these kids even though they’re not quite ready.

It does not allow them to develop the right way. A lot of the time these kids will think they have made it because they finally got to NRL, but it doesn’t take long before most realise how much further they have got to go.

By trying to fast-track them they often miss out on basic essentials. The elite junior programs across the NRL are first class, but the pressure to take young players out of them and elevate them to NRL is hindering them, not helping.

The other problem is that having NYC as our second tier competition is forcing too many kids to be released before they get the chance to fully develop their potential.

This is crucial to the problem we are having right now. With the salary cap biting so hard, the pressure is always on to find and sign the next young kids coming through.

Once kids get to 19, 20, there’s a feeling that if they haven’t broken into NRL by then they’re not going to.

Now we all know that’s not right, but the financial pressure often means you’ve got to let them go because you can’t take the time to keep investing in them because that money is needed on the next wave of kids.

Again, if we emphasised NSW Cup as our second-tier competition, those kids that develop a little later or need more time can do that.

On top of this, the money they are earning because of the way it is structured is creating another problem.

Many of these young kids are becoming the breadwinners for their family, and many are unable to handle the pressure of it. They need time to develop without those financial pressures.

Returning the game to its more traditional structures would alleviate a lot of these problems we did not anticipate when we first went with the model of the NYC as our second-tier competition.

By returning to a structure where players graduate from age-group football into a second tier NSW Cup, playing against older, more experienced players than themselves, but less talented than NRL level, their development would be slower, but far more permanent.

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