Rugby league football is unique in many aspects but there is one that questions the very integrity of the season.
Transfers are allowed in most professional sports, in one way or another, but in rugby league it’s the timing of transfers (and other such contract talks) that leave clubs in unsteady positions during, what can be, fine campaigns putting them somewhat behind the running.
We have seen how it can positively and negatively impact upon clubs just this season.
Liam Watts made his move from Hull FC to the Castleford Tigers, at a point where Hull were on the brink of a real injury crisis leaving them an even tougher job of competing and staying in range of the top 4, where as, it added real depth to the Tigers giving them a boost to go on and push into those same top 4 spots.
Could we argue that such transactions should only be allowed post/pre season?
Elsewhere, Wigan have recently announced the departure of star full-back Sam Tomkins, along with head coach, Shaun Wane. Whilst the impact of these decisions didn’t become clear straight away, the last two Wigan performances have proven that a dip in form could be pending and it would be hard to argue that it is just a coincidence.
People will be quick to point out Football have January transfer periods and the difference isn’t that big. However, there is one difference, and it is quite condemning, in that the amount of players available that are of the same level is quite high. The pool of players in Rugby League, especially in this country, is considerably lower. In turn, you are much more likely to be sacrificing quality with no obvious replacements, then our round balled companions.
Nobody is arguing that teams cope, Hull for example, are firing at a level as good as they’ve been all season with an extremely depleted squad, even after the departure of Watts but what would be comforting to some sides is knowing they have a secure squad in place for the entirety of the season.
In most, if not all, circumstances the loan system is effective in that it allows players out of favour to play Super League rugby, if they are being chased by other clubs. The need for transfers and more importantly transfer announcements are little to none.
I’m sure we will see more of these examples just over the next couple of weeks, and it will work positively and negatively for many sides, so a time must come where I would ask, is the uncertainty of creating unstable clubs a risk worth taking every season?