Brian McDermott says Super League is moving “as fast as the slowest man” by imposing restrictions on clubs that hinder big-name recruitment.
The former Leeds boss was speaking on Thursday at Sonny Bill Williams’ first press conference as a Toronto Wolfpack player.
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McDermott said Toronto are “making people around the world take note of Super League”, and that the league’s governing body needs to revise its rules on overseas-player allowances and salary-cap restrictions if clubs are to keep hold of the kind of players that generate interest in the sport.
“There’s been so many rules over the last 10 or 15 years that have prevented Sam Burgess from staying in Super League and James Graham from staying in Super League,” said McDermott.
The whole of Super League, other than St Helens, numerically were closer to the bottom of the competition than they were to Saints.
“We could have had Johnathan Thurston in Super League. We could have had Darren Lockyer in Super League. The reason they put these rules in place is because the slowest clubs can’t keep up.
“There’s an adage within the game: you go as fast as your slowest man. When I started playing, that’s what you used to say in defensive drills.
“People worked out; ‘no, you don’t go as fast as your slowest man, you go as fast as the group can go and if the slowest man can’t keep up, you leave him behind’.
“Super League has been adopting rules for 20 years to go as fast as the slowest man.”
McDermott said a lack of genuine competition in the top flight is an indictment of the game domestically, and that rugby league has struggled to keep evolving in the way that rugby union has.
“Super League this year was crazy,” said the 49-year-old. “The whole of Super League, other than St Helens, numerically were closer to the bottom of the competition than they were to Saints.
“I think that just epitomises where Super League is at.
“We can only sign so many overseas players because there is a quota in place. The aim is to promote English lads. Good, we’ve done that, we keep doing that – I don’t think anyone is going to stop doing that. We need to have a look at that law.
“And the amount of money we can spend on Super League wages is just ridiculous.
“Compared to where rugby union was – both sports turned full-time around the same time – where rugby union was at the time compared to rugby league, to compare to where they are now is ridiculous and I think all these laws need to be looked at.”
McDermott added that until Super League clubs are allowed to spend heavily in recruiting household names, there will not be any outside interest from potential investors in the sport.
“I don’t think any multi-millionaire, billionaire, any major investor – anybody who wants to get involved in the club on a significant level or anybody who wants to get involved in the sport on a significant level – is going to get excited because Salford win a Grand Final or Featherstone would maybe win the Grand Final in the division below,” said McDermott.
“Within the sport that is brilliant, and I’m not trying to trivialise what they did last year – both Salford and Featherstone who got close in the Grand Final to beating us.
“But that’s not exciting too many people around the world. What Toronto are doing is making people around the world take note of Super League.
“There were a billion eyeballs on the semi-final of the [rugby union] World Cup and the final. I don’t know what the figures would be but how many people do you think from the billion eyeballs are now clicking on one of the biggest rugby union players in the world and where he’s gone to?
“They’re going to follow where he’s gone to and take an interest.
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