Lenagan backs new marquee player plan

A marquee player allowance could help Super League clubs keep hold of homegrown stars, such as Sam Tomkins
A marquee player allowance could help Super League clubs keep hold of homegrown stars, such as Sam Tomkins

WARRIORS chairman Ian Lenagan says he is backing a new ‘marquee allowance’ plan.

Wigan will be better-equipped to sign NRL superstars – and keep hold of their homegrown players – under a new plan drawn up by Super League bosses.

“If a player is deemed marquee, he has to be one of the best in the world, which in English terms would be a Sam Tomkins”

Ian Lenagan

The 12 top-flight clubs will meet in June to decide whether to give a new proposal the green-light.

And Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan, who has opposed similar ideas in the past, has told the Wigan Observer he will be voting in favour of it.

He was speaking before speculation emerged linking Sam Tomkins with a return home, but there is no doubt it would help Wigan - or, indeed, any other Super League club - lure him back from the NRL.

There are two strands to the plan.

Firstly, clubs will be able to pay a marquee homegrown player more than £200,000 – and none of it will count towards the salary cap limit of £1.85m.

Alternatively, if they choose to could recruit a marquee player, only £200,000 of his salary will count on the cap – even if he is paid much more.

If the plan gets the go-ahead, it will come into force for the 2016 season.

Lenagan said: “I think it’s a good approach, I’ll be voting in favour of it. It’s good way to allow the clubs who can afford to pay big money to do so, without murdering them on the salary cap.”

In recent seasons, the Warriors – like other Super League clubs – have struggled to sign top Australian stars because of the widening salary cap limits.

Super League’s cap is £1.825m, with an allowance for an extra £100,000 for clubs with England players. The NRL cap is around £3.5m.

But under this new marquee player proposal, there would be nothing to stop, for example, Wigan or another rich Super League club from offering top names huge contracts.

And, from a player retention point of view, the Warriors would have been allowed to splash the cash to keep hold of Tomkins – who moved to New Zealand – or Sydney Roosters-bound Joe Burgess.

Those players may still have decided to go to test themselves Down Under, but it would strengthen the clubs’ chance.

Previous calls for a ‘marquee player allowance’ have been knocked back, but this revamped proposal is gaining traction.

Explaining his shift in position, Lenagan said: “The previous definition of a marquee player was saying every club would have one, and that was - by definition - the highest paid player.

“I never agreed with that, I always took the view that if a player is deemed marquee, he has to be one of the best in the world, which in English terms would be a Sam Burgess or Sam Tomkins.

“They’ve now changed the rules to follow that line.”

The RFL board has indicated it will approve it - now all it needs is a majority of the 12 Super League clubs to vote in favour when they meet in June.

“The clubs have been looking at a marquee player proposal and at the last club meeting, there was some support for this (new) model,” Super League general manager Blake Solly told Australian magazine Rugby League Week.