BLOCKER: Need for transfer window after Fifita deal

I know we’ve only just clicked over round one, but already I reckon the fans are getting a raw deal. So this week I want to talk about three of the biggest issues we can fix. It angers me why we keep doing some things over and over again and I’ve come up with a few areas rugby league administrators need to target right away.

Imagine you're a Cronulla fan for a moment: how are you feeling about Andrew Fifita signing with the Bulldogs for the next four years? After round one!

Not for a moment am I questioning Fifita's commitment to the Sharks for the rest of the year. He's a professional and will act accordingly.

But I just can't fathom why we have this annual circus with players announcing their future and we're only minutes into a new season. It's crazy and a terrible look for the game.

This might sound simplistic, but here's what should happen: no player can sign a contract until their current deal expires and we sort it all out in a transfer window at the end of the season.

I'm not naive enough to think negotiations still wouldn't take place throughout the year, but how is the current system we've got looking after the fans? Quite simply, it's not.

Andrew Fifita announced a Bulldog deal after just one round of the season. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

It might force clubs to be a little more flexible with their salary cap, which would need to be managed carefully before the window opened.

But I think we need to move closer to an English Premier League model rather than this who's-signing-where-this-week system we operate under now.

Think of the buzz it would create too after a grand final, where people would still be interested in rugby league.

I'll never be able to tell you why we didn't play a game in Brisbane, Melbourne and Auckland to start the season rather than seven games in Sydney over the opening weekend.

To me it would have been a no-brainer with no AFL in Melbourne last week, a massive crowd to flock to Suncorp and a huge audience at Eden Park on the back of the Auckland Nines success.

That's beside the point, though. What the opening week did show me is how badly we are treating our fans in terms of ticketing and they're not afraid to vote with their feet.

Players are showmen. They love nothing more than entertaining in front of sold-out crowds. I was the same when I played.

I've heard the argument that dropping ticket prices will cheapen the product. But we can't have 80,000-seat stadiums and only 18,000 people in them. It's crazy.

You're only cheapening the product if you drop prices when demand is high. Clearly, it's not at the moment.

Merchandise sales in the NRL generates well over $100 million per year. Let's start rewarding those people.

If you're a Tigers fan and your team is playing in Wollongong against the Dragons, it costs $10 to get in if you're wearing your jumper. That's all.

Same if you're a Dragons fan and your team is playing in Canberra. They'll still spend money on other stuff at the venue.

We've got to think of new ways to get more people to games and the flow-on effects can include increased sponsorship, broadcast rights deals etc.

Why don't we trial something like that for four weeks and see how it goes? It can't hurt.

It should be the first of many initiatives the game's top dogs should be thinking about.

Who knew Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess were going head-to-head last week in the first match of the season? You might have heard about it, but you didn't hear from the men themselves. Could we have dragged more people to the first round blockbuster if that pair had been spruiking the clash in the media?

We probably could have.

So I can't understand why some clubs can still get away with shielding their players from promoting the clash if they want to.

We should be doing everything we can to put our biggest stars in the spotlight to connect with fans. Sometimes we seem to be doing everything but.

If there’s one bloke I think is going to have a massive year for St George Illawarra, it has to be Trent Merrin.

I touched on the new rules last week and how they would likely speed up the game. On the evidence of Sunday they’re going to suit him down to the ground.

It’s so much more difficult to tackle blokes around the legs now with the third-man-in law. Mixed with his power and speed, Merrin’s game will go to a new level this year.

He was enormous against my Tigers last week and it won’t be the last time he causes havoc  in 2014.


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