Talking RL: Salary cap increase? Fix the reserves first!

Oliver Gildart's two tries lit up Wigan's game against Salford last week
Oliver Gildart's two tries lit up Wigan's game against Salford last week

Bosses from the 12 Super League clubs met yesterday to discuss, among other things, the World Club Series.

The 3-0 whitewash by NRL clubs has, understandably, raised concerns.

And with no suggestion the concept will be mothballed just yet, those in charge obviously want to lift standards across the board to try and match the quality of the Australian sides.

One suggestion is to raise the salary cap.

I’d love the Super League to be in a position to raise the wage ceiling, so it’s similar to that of the NRL.

But it isn’t, and it probably never will be.

As it stands, we don’t even have all 12 clubs spending up to the current salary cap limit.

It’s time to stop discussing hypotheticals and start looking at practical ways of raising standards, and invest a bit of money into developing the broken pathways for younger players.

Until last year there was no reserve competition, and this year’s league is only a marginal improvement.

According to Wigan’s website, they don’t have a reserve fixture for seven weeks now.

Seven weeks!

No wonder Shaun Wane and his staff are less than thrilled with the fixtures they’ve been handed.

Those players who are too old for the Under-19s and not quite good enough for Wigan’s 17-man squad have nowhere to play.

How is that going to improve their development? How is that going to improve standards?

Answer: It won’t.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

With the NRL starting again this weekend, don’t fall into the trap of believing all of England’s biggest stars are over there.

They’re not.

Mike Cooper was a handy player at Warrington and I’m pleased he’s doing well at St George Illawarra.

But I dare say Chris Sandow helped sell more season tickets at the Wolves than Cooper ever did.

The same can be said of Tyrone McCarthy.

His exit is hardly a blow to Super League when he was never a box office draw here.

And England internationals Jack Reed and Gareth Widdop can hardly be classed as players ‘lost from Super League’ when they emigrated as children with their families!

Yes, we’d love to have Sam Burgess and James Graham back. And if Sam could bring one of his brothers, great.

But the ‘player drain’ is not as bad as some would have you believe.

I was with a friend at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday night for an unspectacular game between Warrington and Wakefield.

One player caught my eye - Ben Currie.

The England squad is blessed with talent in the backrow and I imagine Currie will soon be in that mix.

To make it even more pleasing, he’s a Wiganer.

While the quality was scratchy I enjoyed Wigan’s game against Salford last week.

The tight scoreline and exciting finish compensated for the interruptions from players’ errors or the referee’s whistle.

Anthony Gelling produced another strong display, Sam Powell’s display at hooker left me encouraged and Oliver Gildart showed great footwork for his two tries.

And in the opposition ranks, Robert Lui looks as if he’s going to become a firm crowd-pleaser.

Wigan are one of only two clubs to win all their Super League games so far, and it’s hugely encouraging.

Why?

Because they’ve not played particularly well.

Because they’ve faced three decent sides - Huddersfield, Catalans and a much-improved Salford.

Because they’re notoriously slow-starters, a fact Shaun Wane puts down to their number of England internationals.

And because their best player, Sam Tomkins, is among the handful of stars sidelined through injury.

If Wigan can still win against all of that, how good can they become once combinations are polished?

Hopefully, the winning run will continue tomorrow night at the KC Stadium - a ground where Shaun Wane has never suffered a defeat, even as an assistant.

But I suspect Hull FC will pose tougher opponents than in the past.

Wane may need to convince a few people that Wigan are the underdogs.

But interestingly, the most impartial of observers - the bookmakers - couldn’t split the sides in the early betting markets.

There are seven ex-NRL players in the home ranks including off-season captures Frank Pritchard and Sika Manu, two high-calibre players.

Wigan will need to combat that size advantage up front if they are to maintain their winning run.

A campaign by a group of medical experts is calling for full contact rugby in both codes to be banned in schools.

The report says the majority of injuries occur during contact “such as the tackle and the scrum”.

Can someone, somewhere, please show my a player of any age who was injured in a rugby league scrum. Anyone?