Coaches call for end to player signings circus, question Bunker and rules, nominate best players

In the countdown to the NRL season, the coaches have called on the NRL to fix the player transfer system, several rules and the use of the Bunker, while also calling on head office to provide more support.

Both NewsCorp and the Sydney Morning Herald have published polls of the coaches after surveying them on a range of hot-button topics for on and off-field issues.

The main talking point is player signings. According to the SMH poll, which had responses from 10 of the 16 head coaches, 70% believe the NRL should ban clubs from signing players more than a year out from their arrival with 89% calling for at least one transfer window.

The NewsCorp poll, which questioned more than 30 coaches and assistants, sent a similar message to the NRL with 77.4&% saying a transfer window needed to be introduced.

Under the current rules, an NRL club can offer a contract to a player entering the final year of their deal from November 1. This has led to many players announcing their departures from clubs more than a year in advance, much to the chagrin of fans and team officials.

Melbourne have been one of the hardest hit by the rule this off-season with established stars Felise Kaufusi, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, who are joining the Dolphins next year, and Brandon Smith, who is off to the Roosters, announcing they will not be at the club in 2023 despite having a full season left at the Storm.

Canterbury recruited Matt Burton from Penrith prior to the start of last season and have already nabbed Eels hooker Reed Mahoney for next year. Parramatta have also lost Marata Niukore to the Warriors, Isaiah Papali’i to the Wests Tigers and Ray Stone to the Dolphins for next season.

As far as the potential for bringing in a draft to help struggling clubs have a better chance of attracting talent, the coaches were adamant it was not the way to go with 89% in the SMH and 61% in the NewsCorp polls canning the idea.

And the coaches are adamant that clubs are using illegal third-party deals to pay players with 75% of respondents in the SMH poll claiming that tactic was going on behind the scenes to circumvent the salary cap.

The coaches, who were polled anonymously in each poll, believe the NRL is not listening to their pleas. Just under three quarters of them in the NewsCorp survey believe there is not enough support for coaches with 71% saying they are not consulted enough.

With the NRL set to test video technology for forward passes during the trials and NRLW season, the coaches are split on whether it is worth the investment with 51.6% in favour and 45.2% against in the NewsCorp poll.

The ongoing issue over the use of the Bunker is also dividing opinion – 51.6% said the current amount was right with the rest saying it should be less, according to the NewsCorp results, while in the SMH poll, 70% of the coaches wanted it to be used less.

With the NRL changing the six-again rule to award a penalty for infringements in the 40-metre zone for teams coming off their own goal line, there was a 60-40 split in favour of the change in the SMH results.

Another contentious rule, the concussion protocols which have allowed for free interchanges for head injuries, is being exploited, according to the coaches with 55% saying some clubs do it with the rest surveyed by the SMH saying all teams are at it.
When asked about which players are the best of the best, Dally M winner Tom Trbojevic, Clive Churchill Medallist Nathan Cleary and NSW captain James Tedeco stood out from the rest.

Trbojevic was named the best player in the NRL by NewsCorp at 59% ahead of Cleary (28%) and Tedesco (10%) with new Rabbitohs skipper Cameron Murray fourth with 3.4%.

“Turbo” was named the player that coaches do most homework on when formulating their game plans with 78% of the SMH respondents, ahead of Cleary and James Tedesco at 11%, while the Penrith co-captain was an overwhelming winner as the first player a coach would sign at 56% with Trbojevic (33%) and Tedesco (11%) next best.

Broncos captain Adam Reynolds was a standout for the likely best recruit for 2022 with 50% ahead of Raiders half Jamal Fogarty, Warriors veteran Shaun Johnson, Dragons second-rower Jaydn Su’A and Sharks forward Dale Finucane.

Cronulla and Canberra were rated the teams most likely to return to the finals after missing out last year while Storm mentor Craig Bellamy was the coaches’ pick as the cream of their crop.

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