Talking RL: Cap rise sounds great... but will it change anything?

Will Super League clubs bid to bring back code-hopping stars like Chris Ashton now there is a salary cap provision?
Will Super League clubs bid to bring back code-hopping stars like Chris Ashton now there is a salary cap provision?

The salary cap is dead, said Wakefield chairman Michael Carter yesterday.

He was one of five of the 12 club bosses to oppose plans which were voted through, and are set to be rubber-stamped by the RFL board today.

The basic cap amount will rise incrementally from £1.85m to £2.1m over the next three years.

There will also be the introduction of a second marquee player allowance, and ways which make attract ingstars from union possible without their wages counting on the cap amount while they settle into the 13-a-side game.

Broadly speaking, I welcome the changes. If we’re going to have the cap (and I would have no problem getting rid of it, providing there were measures in place to stop clubs getting into financial trouble) then it’s only fair it rises occasionally.

The current wage limit has been, generally, stagnant for too long (when union and the NRL have risen their cap limits).

Look closely, and there are concessions for clubs who produce their own players – which I hope with encourage more outfits to invest more into developing young players. My own view is having academies and reserves teams should be compulsory if you’re in Super League. But if they can’t use a stick, use a carrot – create incentives to do so.

I’m not convinced there was a clamour to allow a second marquee player at each club, given Wigan are currently the only Super League club making use of one (Sam Tomkins), though if it helps Wigan keep George Williams at the club, I’m all for it.

Super League chief Roger Draper said in pre-season they need the big stars to sell tickets and attract viewers.

But will the raised cap change anything significantly?

Some of the clubs aren’t spending up to the current limit and some of those who are, are losing money.

They rely on rich owners to cover their losses.

Raising the amount they can spend sounds progressive and encouraging – but is it affordable?

Will any club splash out on a union star, now there is a provision on the cap to do so?

Will they bring in two marquee players, when previously they haven’t even looked at one?

Only time will tell. I hope the answers come as a pleasant surprise.

Shaun Wane said it would be unfair to label tonight’s game with Castleford as “a grudge match”.

Counterpart Daryl Powell said past friction between the pair is just a sign of their competitiveness.

Hmm.... I’ll take their word for it. But given the form of Cas’ and the hype they have attracted - and the previous between these two - I imagine tonight’s game will be a spicy encounter.

Remember last year? Powell said he felt “disrespected” by Wane’s remarks about their form.

There was an exchange of words around their Challenge Cup meeting and, in the off-season, Rangi Chase faced the wrath of some Wigan players by appearing to glorify his tackle which ended Dom Manfredi’s season. He later removed the post, and apologised, but I’d be intrigued to know if that is mentioned in the build-up.

Not that they need motivation, after a three-game run without a win.

Wigan take great pride from having a menacing defence.

And they would surely take great satisfaction from stifling a Tigers attack which has registered nearly 100 points more than their closest rivals, Leeds and Salford (who have played a game more), this year.

It should be a cracker. I’m looking forward to Good Friday because it’s Good Friday.

But whisper it quietly, I’m more interested in what happens tonight.

The usual punishment range for a Grade E offence is four to eight games. Brett Ferres got six.

He yesterday admitted he may appeal the severity in a bid to get it reduced. People outraged at his crusher tackle on Oliver Gildart, which placed a squeamish-amount of pressure on the centre’s neck and back as he crumpled under the weight of the Leeds forward, want to know why he didn’t get the maximum ban.

After all, the tribunal members were satisfied Ferres lifted Gildart and dumped him back down.

Satisfied there was deliberate use of a dangerous technique.

Satisfied this was a serious offence.

So why six games, and not eight?

“In deciding the appropriate sanction this tribunal give the player credit for his acceptance of guilt and the considerable remorse shown,” read the minutes from the hearing. They also accepted he didn’t intent to injure Gildart.

Like the judicial system, disciplinary members need to leave themselves somewhere to go in case they get a player who intended to injure someone, showed no remorse and then denied it.

I get that.

The trouble, for me, lay in the grading: the crusher tackle – a Grade E offence – belongs in the most serious band, Grade F.

Because I hate it.

I hate it more than any high shot, more than any brush against a referee, more than any cannonball tackle to the knees.

It could lead to a serious injury, whether that’s the opponent’s intention or not.

This was about more than punishing Brett Ferres. 
This was about sending out a statement to all the players that this type of challenge won’t be tolerated, a reminder of their duty of care to their opponents – that’s the reason I thought there should have been a harsher suspension.

Some have suggested Ferris should have received a ban which mirrors the length of time Gildart is injured for.

The logic is well-intended, but it would be a mine-field.

What if Gildart had avoided any injury? Give Ferres a slap on the wrist and let him play on?

We can all think of instances of nasty acts not resulting in serious injuries.

And on the flip-side, last year Sean O’Loughlin got a one-game ban for a high-shot which ruled Wakefield’s Chris Annakin out for several weeks.

But Annakin wasn’t out with a broken jaw, but with knee ligament damage - wouldn’t he have suffered the same injury if O’Loughlin had whacked him a few inches lower, across the chest, in a legal tackle?

Which is why they have to punish the act, rather than the outcome.