Great Britain legend Stuart Fielden says Super League is now well in the shadow of the NRL due to its failure to attract the world’s best players.
Fielden, who was once rugby league’s most expensive player when he moved from Bradford to Wigan for £450,000 in 2006, believes Super League’s salary cap is to blame.
While the cap in the UK has remained almost stagnant for a decade, the NRL has seen their salary cap triple in the same period.
Thanks to huge TV broadcast and sponsorship deals, Australia’s premier competition only continues to grow allowing them to keep and attract the world’s best talent.
“Since 2010 onwards I think the only reason Australian players come to Super League is at the back of their career for the money,” Fielden told Serious About Rugby League.
“You ask any football player, would you want to play in the Championship or the Premier League and Champions League?
“To me that’s what Super League is now, the NRL is the big competition every player wants to get to and it’s because of the difference in the salary cap.
“We are still on £2 million and they are on £6 million, you can’t compete with that. All your top players are now in Australia and there is no reason for them to come over here.
“It’s a nicer place and they have the cash, so there is no incentive for the world’s best players to come here. Super League can only bridge that gap if they sort out their finances and give the players more money.”
During Fielden’s playing days the gap between Super League and the NRL was much closer on the pitch too, highlighted by a flurry of British wins in the World Club Challenge.
The noughties also saw Super League attract some of the world’s biggest names, something that now seems almost impossible despite the marquee player rule.
“In my career we weren’t that far off,” Fielden added. “I didn’t lose a World Club Challenge, we won three out of three.
“The top two or three Super League teams could compete with the NRL and we weren’t a million miles off.
“We had big Joe Vagana come over and Lesley Vainikolo, you had the best players in the world coming over here, the likes of Jamie Lyon, then Adrian Morley and Andrew Johns.
“We had the best players in the world coming to Super League. It made Super League better. Now you don’t and that’s why Super League is what it is.
“Super League is now a shadow of the NRL.”