There’s always plenty of talk over the validity of the salary cap. The system was introduced at the start of Super League to remove the possibility of one team dominated as Wigan did in the 80s and 90s. However, since then we’ve only had four Champions leading some to believe the system doesn’t work. Perhaps that has been true of the salary cap…until now.
In recent weeks it’s become clear to me that the cap is having its desired effect with Super League set for a major shakeup in 2022.
It’s no secret that St Helens have been the dominant force of the league since 2018. They’ve finished top twice, won the Grand Final twice and have now added the Challenge Cup to their collection. There may be one or two chapters left to write for this team but after 2021 the book will be closed on this particular Saints side.
Kristian Woolf has not hidden the fact the Saints have been unable to keep some of their key players owing to higher offers from other clubs due to the restrictions of the cap. Lachlan Coote is headed for Hull KR, Theo Fages by all accounts is set to join Huddersfield whilst the future of Kevin Naiqama is up in the air. Meanwhile, James Bentley has already confirmed his departure. He’s set to join hometown club Leeds in 2022.
To me, this is proof that the salary cap is working the way it was designed. Yes, Saints have dominated the league for four seasons which may lead some to believe the cap has failed. But in truth it hasn’t. The Saints have smartly used their cap space and marquee signings to assemble a squad that gradually got better. Look at Theo Fages. He wasn’t exactly regarded as one of the best halves in the league when he joined St Helens but he’s been moulded into one and has been focal to their success. But now he’s so good that the Saints can’t keep him under the cap so he’ll join a new side and improve them.
That’s the nature of the cap. If you use it wisely you should be able to create a brilliant team until when they become all-conquering. Then it’s forced to disband with star players dispersing through the league and enhancing other clubs.
Saints fans might not like it but Hull KR and Huddersfield will when and if Coote and Fages arrive. With players like these, those two clubs, neither of whom have played in a Grand Final, could begin climbing the table. Hypothetically, if one of them became the dominant force of the league themselves eventually the cap would force them to disband and the process would continue.
Many believe the salary cap has failed the sport but what’s about to happen leads me to believe it’s at least beginning to work. There are some who want it gone but I think if we can give it time it could very well enhance our game.