Salary-cap wrangle hits Panthers hard

  • Penrith will be forced to drop one of the stars of their resurgence, fullback Matt Moylan, because of what officials have called ‘‘unreasonable’’ second-tier salary cap restrictions.

    The Panthers have been notified by the NRL that should they play Moylan against Wests Tigers on Sunday, they will risk a substantial fine, and there are also doubts about winger Travis Robinson’s availability for the match.

    Moylan is said to be ‘‘shattered’’ by the development. His manager Allan Gainey said he would likely consult with lawyers over whether the move was a restraint of trade. Instead of playing in the NRL on Sunday, Moylan is likely to turn out for Windsor Wolves against Newtown in Parkes on the same day. Robinson’s selection will need to be confirmed by further discussions.
    Moylan and Robinson were called into the side in round seven as the club dealt with a shocking injury toll. The pair have since played a key role in the Panthers winning four of their past five matches, a run that has moved them into the top eight.

    But with Wes Naiqama having recovered from injury, the Panthers sought to gain exemption to play Moylan, because he is in the second-tier salary cap. The club was told Moylan’s selection would represent a second-tier cap breach. Naiqama will play in place of Moylan, while Geoff Daniela would replace Robinson, who has scored five tries in five matches, if officials cannot come to agreement over his selection.

    ‘‘This is a highly unfortunate situation, and it affects all clubs from time to time, not just the Panthers,’’ Penrith’s executive general manager of rugby league Phil Gould said. ''I have been in discussion with the NRL chief executive Dave Smith and the chief operating officer Jim Doyle for some time, highlighting the problems that the current second-tier salary cap creates in our game. They have been extremely proactive in launching a review of all aspects of the salary-cap structures.

    ''I trust Dave and Jim to find a workable solution some time in the near future. It’s just unfortunate that young Matt Moylan and perhaps other players at other clubs are caught in the bind of what we see as an unreasonable restraint of their development and the ability of teams to remain competitive during the course of a long season.

    ''The league is aware of the issue and is working hard to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
    ‘‘Our view is that the second-tier salary cap has no place in the game today, as it may have had perhaps a decade ago.’’

    An NRL spokesman confirmed the administration had begun a review of the second-tier salary cap before Penrith’s complaints about Moylan. ‘‘The NRL has already had discussions with Penrith and other clubs in relation to the second-tier cap,’’ the spokesman said. ‘‘Further discussions with Penrith and other clubs are planned.’’ That will be little comfort for Moylan, who earns less than half the minimum wage of the NRL, and has now been denied the chance to earn match payments for playing at the top level.

    The second-tier salary cap, for players outside the top 25, is $375,000. But Penrith have argued that the cap has risen only 25 per cent since 2005, failing to keep up with increases in the NRL salary cap.

    Moylan recently re-signed with the Panthers until the end of 2015. His contract was also believed to be structured so he would earn more in 2015 if he played a certain number of games in 2013-14. That prospect is now in doubt.

    ‘‘It’s a ridiculous situation,’’ Gainey said. ''It’s affected my player’s ability to earn, it’s affected his development. He should be playing first grade.

    ‘‘The coach wants him to play first grade. It’s something the RLPA [players’ union] should have addressed in the latest [bargaining agreement]. All clubs have a problem with it - $375,000 for the second-tier cap is crazy. We’d seriously consider our legal options, as we regard it as a restraint of trade.’’

    The development comes with the Panthers still having significant injury problems. Lachlan Coote (pectoral), Blake Austin (foot), Sam McKendry (back) and Tom Humble (ankle) remain on the injured list. To add to their woes, front-rower Tim Grant is likely to be sidelined for the next month with a broken hand.

    Penrith could have a handful of players out of Sunday’s match. As much as we are outsiders, if Moylan, Robinson and Grant are out I think we have a chance.

  • yep needs to be removed or greatly increased. 500k sounds a lot better than <400k.

    Also, adopt a system so a season ending injury allows that person’s pay (or maybe the rest of his pay for the season) to be not counted in the salary cap BUT if a club applies for that the player cannot play NRL that regular season under any circumstances.

  • Ridiculous situation

    Imagine if the same thing happened with us with say Tedesco/Moltzen, or Korobete// Tuquiri….NRL reactive yet again

    I guess there always a reason for, and an ‘‘on the other hand’’ argument for this…prevents clubs stacking their reggies I spose


  • What an absolute joke & you have to really feel for the kid/players/clubs who are affected by the second tier cap when clubs suffer from a bad run of injuries. If this doesn’t get sorted out soon & Moylan is unable through no fault of his own to invoke the clause in his contract to be able to earn more in 2015 that the RLPA get involved as I’d imagine? he could sue for restraint of trade or at least have his contract canceled so that he can renegotiate a new one as when he signed this, he would of backed himself to not get injured & play X amount of games in the next two years.

    I was told Evans wasn’t able to play earlier on in the year when they had a few injuries because of this second tier cap BS & Lui was called up instead. Evans won’t be able to play FG this year if they suffer anymore injuries & Nappa will be used instead.

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  • While it is somewhat crazy, these are the rules and guidelines other clubs have to manage… No doubt this has effected us this year also, and its unfair to allow the Panthers to continue without allowing ALL clubs the same leniency.

    Suck Shit Panthers… The Tigers Are Coming!!!

  • Banned

    What is the purpose of the second tier salary cap?

  • @WestsSupporter:

    What is the purpose of the second tier salary cap?

    not sure, but i’m guessing so that a club like melbourne doesn’t give every single NSW Cup/Toyota Cup player 80k or something so they have the best young talent/depth in the comp as every young gun wants to play there given they make twice as much.

    Obviously they can’t pay them SO much that they count in the top 25 but as long as they are JUST outside that a rich club could have 60 people on just below the 25th player’s salary if there were no 2nd tier cap.

    But it needs to be raised, obviously. Or some other adjustment as i suggested before.

  • @WestsSupporter:

    What is the purpose of the second tier salary cap?

    I think it’s in place to stop teams stockpiling players outside the “top” 25, and thereby outside the salary cap.
    In theory without it an unscrupulous club could park a marquee player or 2 then use them every week instead of playing members of the top squad.

    Posted using RoarFEED 2013

  • If its affected Penrith, surely it will affect us at some point you would think. Unless we’re immune as most the blokes we’re calling up are the top squad fringe players like Ava, Sue, Simona.

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  • @Peaches:

    If its affected Penrith, surely it will affect us at some point you would think. Unless we’re immune as most the blokes we’re calling up are the top squad fringe players like Ava, Sue, Simona.

    Posted using RoarFEED 2013

    It has affected us,we are not able to bring any more players up,like Brooks,because our second tier cap is full,which probably explains Spence being picked,as he has already played up before.

  • we’re not able to play brooks? but we can play farlow??

    we have had the opportunity to play brooks, as several other players have debuted since brooks was touted as a chance a few weeks back.

    If others have debuted, so could brooks. We’ve held him back intentionally.

  • It would be easy to say Panthers fullback Matt Moylan is not playing first grade on Sunday because of the restrictive inadequacies of the NRL’s salary cap structures. However, that’s only a fraction of the story.

    The real reason Moylan will be playing at Parkes and not at Penrith is that those responsible for policing the salary cap are inflexible, and there is no appeal process available to review decisions made by the salary cap auditor. If such procedures were in place, there’s no committee anywhere in the world that would deny this young man the opportunity to play in the NRL on Sunday.

    Unfortunately, under the previous NRL CEO David Gallop, Ian Schubert was given total control over all salary cap implementation. The fact no mechanism was ever put in place to challenge Schubert’s rulings was a major flaw in the NRL administration.

    Over the past 10 years we’ve tried many times to get NRL management to understand how restrictive the second-tier salary cap interpretations are on the development of young players, the depth of talent in the NRL and ultimately the quality of many NRL games we witness where teams are unable to compete as a result of extensive injury tolls.

    Moylan is not the first player inconvenienced by the second-tier salary cap. The Panthers are not the first club to raise this issue. I’m hoping though, we will be the last.

    Newly appointed NRL chief executive Dave Smith and chief operating officer Jim Doyle have inherited this system. They did not create it. In my discussions with them over recent months both men immediately acknowledged the inadequacies of the salary cap rules and have instigated a full review. This review will coincide with a full review of the lower-tier competitions and development pathways we have in place because these two vital elements of our game are essentially joined at the hip. One does not survive without the either.

    Both men have indicated they will be totally revamping the salary cap laws to bring them into line with the demands of modern-day professional sporting codes. The salary cap laws, and the inflexible manner of their implementation, are actually counter-productive to the future goals of the NRL and its own strategic plan. Both Smith and Doyle have also indicated changes need to be made immediately to give interim relief to many of our NRL clubs who are in a similar position to the Panthers with regards to the second-tier salary cap. They’ve been working on this for some time. I can assure you they are not just reacting to the Moylan matter this week. I’m expecting announcements in the near future. Unfortunately, changes did not come soon enough to save him. On Friday, the salary cap auditor ruled two of the Panther second-tier players, Moylan and Travis Robinson, could not play in the NRL this weekend and their spots had to be filled by players in the top 25 who have recently returned from injury.

    Since then, Robinson has been approved to play; however, Moylan has to play for Windsor in Parkes against the Newtown Jets.


    et me explain. Moylan and Robinson are second-tier players over the age of 20. Both got their opportunity to play first grade some weeks ago as a result of an extremely heavy injury toll in the top 25 roster at the Panthers.

    All these players were unavailable around this period of time: Brad Tighe (three weeks); Sam McKendry (four months); Lachlan Coote (five months); Tom Humble (the season); Cameron Ciraldo, Wes Naiqama and Josh Mansour (all six weeks); Blake Austin and Jeremy Latimore (both 12 weeks); and James Roberts (12 weeks and now another four). And now Tim Grant will also be missing for a month. This, together with releasing Dayne Weston to the Storm, meant the Panthers quickly chewed up their second-tier salary cap allocation of $375,000 in replacing these players in the top grade.

    When the Panthers had to use players that would take us beyond this $375,000 allocation, we had to secure exemption from the salary cap auditor to avoid breaching the salary cap.

    Since coming into first grade, Moylan and Robinson have performed admirably and deserve to hold their positions in the top grade.

    What the auditor is now telling us is that because we have 17 healthy players in our top 25 roster who, in their opinion, can cover all positions, then Moylan and Robinson have to go back to reserve grade. This also means that if the Panthers do not get any injuries in these positions for the rest of the season, Moylan and Robinson will not get another crack at first grade in 2013. I find that ridiculous.

    It would also mean any youngster at Penrith not in the top 25, no matter how hard they train, how well they play or how much they deserve a chance, will not be allowed to play in the top grade. We’ve received instructions from the auditor, saying words to the effect, that “loss of form is no justification for not selecting a player in first grade”. Say what? It has been for a hundred years hasn’t it?

    On Friday, acting salary cap auditor Jamie L’Oste Brown delivered instructions to Panthers such as, “Why not play Geoff Daniela at centre and either Dean Whare or David Simmons at fullback” or “Just play Naiqama at fullback and see how that goes”.

    Right there, we see the arrogance and control with which this department of the NRL treats clubs. Firstly, who gave the salary cap auditor the right to start telling coaches who they should select in their teams and what positions they should play?

    We are not playing “tiddly-winks” here. This is supposed to be a professional sporting code. These careers are extremely important to these individuals. Winning is so important to the business models of our 16 NRL clubs. Having the salary cap auditor instruct a club to move players around to non-specialist positions, just to “see how that goes”, is surely the height of naivety and amateurism. Secondly, this insensitive instruction totally misses the point of the whole dilemma.

    What about Matt Moylan? A local junior who has battled his way through the junior systems and served his time in the NSW Cup, waiting and hoping to fulfil his dreams of playing in the NRL. A young man who is on an extremely meagre salary, well short of the minimum wage; and who earns an extra $3000 with every appearance he makes in the top grade. What about his future and his development as a player?

    I can also tell you Moylan’s new contract for 2014 has incentives included that will increase his earnings next year based on the number of first-grade games he plays this season. This is a restriction of his earning potential as a professional footballer.

    What is even more incredulous in this instance is that the Panthers are $200,000 under the top 25 NRL salary cap. Penrith are also one of only two NRL clubs who do not qualify for the ridiculous $200,000 discount for long-serving players. This means in real terms, the Panthers in 2013 are spending at least (and I stress the words “at least”) $400,000 less than other NRL clubs on their current top 25 roster. Yet the salary cap auditor maintains we can still only use $375,000 worth of second-tier talent.

    Add in the fact that the team the Panthers intended to play on Sunday against the Tigers was worth in total contract amounts less than $2.49 million; one wonders how the NRL possibly justifies relegating Moylan for this match. Surely common sense should have prevailed.

    In 2005, the second-tier salary cap was set at $300,000 which, at that time, was eight times the minimum wage of $37,500. In 2013 the minimum wage is now $75,000. However, the second-tier cap has only increased to $375,000. That’s only five times the minimum wage.

    On that basis alone the Rugby League Players Association should have been demanding a second-tier salary cap of at least $600,000 for season 2013, and increasing every year that the minimum wage increases. Our view is there is no need for a second-tier salary cap for players over 20 years of age. You should be allowed to play as many players as you like outside the top 25, provided all of them are earning less than the 25th highest paid player in your top 25 NRL roster.

    Anyway … from Penrith’s point of view, we know Wes Naiqama will do a great job in the fullback role against the Tigers. That’s not the issue for us. But as Wes himself said yesterday when told of his sudden selection, “I like playing first grade, but this is totally unfair on young Matt Moylan”.

    Of course it is, Wes.

    Phil Gould is executive general manager of the Penrith Panthers

    Twitter - @gusgould91

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  • The AUDITOR telling a club how and where to play their players?

    The height of arrogance, and audacity.

    I don’t always agree with Gould, but this is dead on.

  • that is a shocking statement from the NRL telling the club where they should play players. absolutely agree with Gould on this one.

  • Banned

    This can really hurt a player’s development. Momentum is everything in life. Once you get on a roll, don’t stop! This will stall his career, as his mentality will almost certainly be affected.

    Its unbelievable how a young player can be halted from pursuing a top level sports career in this manner.

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