This is a late response to the RFL’s ambassadorial contracts. The new salary cap and marquee player rules might have put an end to this nonsense. However, the RFL still win some sort of prize for really bad ideas with the ambassadorial contracts.
It’s not just the not informing all the teams. Although that is the level of communication I expect from the RFL. It’s that it’s a bad idea no matter which way you look at it.
First of all, I look at it as a fan. Okay, there is an advantage to my team. It should mean that my team can keep hold of players that would otherwise go to the NRL (or another Super League team). But that relies on my team being one of the ones whose players are chosen to play for England. I’m lucky, the occasional Saints player does get picked. Other teams aren’t so lucky, see any number of Wakefield and Castleford players who have deserved a call-up and didn’t get one because they played for unfashionable clubs. Or there are players who are the victim of an oversight by a particular coach e.g. Steve McNamara’s refusal to pick Danny Brough.
There’s no way that this idea is fair on Catalan Dragons. They are, understandably, unlikely to produce any English players through their academy.
It gives an advantage to the teams that are already big. It also puts any team coming up from the Championship at an even bigger disadvantage than they would have been.
Also as a fan, and using a personal example, I’d rather James Graham have moved to the NRL than to another English team. One of those is annoying, the other one would have broken my heart.
I think that would also be true if I was an owner or manager. I’d rather a player leave for Australia rather than play for one of our competitors.
As an England fan, I want the players playing in the best league possible so that we might, eventually, beat the Aussies. That means the NRL. One year of results in the World Club Championships does not change that. I understand that the reason why they brought this in (or tried to) was to reduce the gap. The RFL think that the NRL are stealing all of the Super League’s best players. They also think that stopping that will make the gap between England and Australia smaller.
This seems to ignore that the players that go over and succeed are mostly props, not creative players. Now, I love me my props, see also James Graham, but GB/England have always been able to equal Australia in the forwards. It’s in the backs where Australia are so much better. Stopping the backs from getting experience against Australian teams is not going to solve that problem.
What might solve the problem is stopping the English teams bringing in over-the-hill Australians to play in the backs. Instead English teams should be encouraged to promote players from their own youth systems.
No Super League team is going to agree to that though, because why should they cut their own throats for the national team. I think there will need to be a carrot and stick approach. Somehow said carrot (or stick) also needs to be applicable to the Catalan Dragons. That is where it gets difficult. There’s no reason for the RFL to help the Dragons, but just as much, there’s no reason for the Super League teams to help the RFL without some sort of reward.