RUGBY LEAGUE: Former Rabbitohs and Roosters player Jimmy Smith has adamantly declared that all NRL player salaries should be published to stop harmful speculation about where clubs were at with their salary cap.
The Roosters' stunning year of player signings continued this week when they won the battle for Angus Crichton on a three-year deal starting in 2019.
The deal sent social media into overdrive with fans wondering how the Tricolours could successfully lure James Tedesco, Cooper Cronk and Crichton one after the other.
There's a clear perception among rival fans that the Roosters and other powerful clubs are getting away with daylight robbery - working under a "salary sombrero" rather than a cap.
There's plenty of evidence to refute that claim and it clearly frustrates Roosters chairman Nick Politis, who hit back in an interview with Fairfax Media, saying his club just managed their roster better than everyone else.
But the very fact that Politis and others have had to defend unsubstantiated claims caused by a tidal wave of negative public perception is in itself a problem for the NRL.
To stop that perception in its tracks, Smith said on Fox Sports News show Bill & Boz that player salaries should be made public.
"The lack of transparency means the perception is the Roosters are over the cap. They need to be more transparent with the salaries," Smith said.
It's not the first time that call has been made and it won't be the last but it's a change that is unlikely given most players are vigorously opposed to it, preferring to keep their personal information private.
Smith pointed to the fact that government employees and CEOs of publicly listed companies had their salaries available to the public and said while the NRL case was unique, there was a compelling reason for the players to get on board.
"What's there to fear if you make it transparent?"
Clubs that are well managed would clearly have the most to gain in a system where player salaries were made public.
There would be nowhere to hide for recruitment managers who overvalue players, giving fans the opportunity to judge for themselves which players were value for money and which players were not.
Equally, questions would be asked of clubs when a big name player was recruited on a bargain price.
Given players from some clubs have better access to third-party agreements than others, a system where salaries were published would help to shed light on the controversial mechanism that has got Parramatta and Manly in hot water over the past 18 months.
However, Smith also questioned the objective of a salary cap when there is no limit on TPAs.
"Why have a salary cap when you've got unlimited third parties?" Smith asked.
"How many third parties do the Brisbane Broncos have compared with the Canterbury Bulldogs, compared with the Cronulla Sharks?"
Only the NRL can accurately answer that question, with all TPAs required to be lodged with the governing body.
While that is the case and NRL fans are kept in the dark, the Roosters will continue to suffer from the negative perception that goes hand-in-hand with being the destination of the stars.
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