WAR looming between rugby and league

Simply had to post it here due to the headline.

War looming between rugby and league
Brent Read | August 24, 2007

THE two rugby codes could be on the verge of another war as NRL clubs circle what many scouts believe is the best batch of schoolboy rugby union players to emerge in the past decade.

A day after Manly announced it had agreed to terms with NSW Waratahs academy member Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 18, The Australian can reveal a number of schoolboys are being closely monitored by NRL clubs.

One of them, Nudgee College outside back Joseph Tomane, is already contracted to Melbourne.

Several, including fellow backs Cameron Mitchell, Afusipa Taumoepeau and Robert Horne, are regarded as "can't miss" prospects by league scouts.

With rugby league clubs moving to bolster their ranks for the start of next year's national under-20s competition, the battle between the codes over the most talented teenagers is set to intensify in coming months.

"It's the best batch of outside backs I have seen in 10 years," said Melbourne recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan, the man who discovered Storm stars Israel Folau and Greg Inglis.

"There's half a dozen who can't miss."

O'Sullivan believes the player movement could go in both directions. Folau is among those likely to attract interest from the ARU when he comes off contract at the end of next season.

"It could be full-scale (war) both ways," O'Sullivan said.

"I'm petrified they're going to come after our best kids."

The ructions are not only being felt at schoolboy level, with rumours continuing about the future of Wallabies star Lote Tuqiri and NSW Waratahs prodigy Kurtley Beale.

Both are contracted for next year but they continue to be linked to rugby league.

Beale's manager, Rob Horton, confirmed he had been approached by several NRL clubs including the Sydney Roosters.

Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce is a former junior teammate of Beale. And O'Sullivan is joining the Roosters in 2008. The speculation is likely to continue as long as Beale remains unsigned beyond 2008.

"I have been approached by a number of league clubs," Horton said.

"They all said they would be interested in talking to him. I haven't instigated any discussions. They have come to us.

"He would be interested in playing league. But I think his focus would be securing a position in the Wallabies first and see what happens from there.

"There has been no approach from the ARU or NSWRU or any Super 14 franchise."

Only two weeks ago, ARU chief executive John O'Neill foreshadowed changes to the code's pay structure to reel in payments to the game's elite.

Just what that means for players at the lower levels remains unclear. Rugby union has long been shadowed by criticism that it rewards its elite players at the expense of those below.

The vast majority of those participating in the new Australian Rugby Championship are doing so for a pittance compared to their NRL counterparts.

"They have always been susceptible because they spend so much money at the top tier," Melbourne chief executive Brian Waldron said.

The start of the NRL's under-20s competition, which will be governed by a salary cap and be televised on pay-TV, presents a new challenge.

"Does a kid want to go back and play colts rugby union for a year or two, or be on a national stage and training as a semi-professional?" Waerea-Hargreaves' manager, Mike Newton, said. "I know what most would prefer to do."

Earlier this year, the Storm warned the ARU off Tomane, and Waldron made it clear yesterday he expected the teenager to fly to Melbourne later this year to participate in training.

"It's anticipated he and his family will be down in the school holidays to spend a week training with us," Waldron said.
Shouldn't be a problem for the AR Union, they'll just do what they usually do, fly over to South Africa with their chequebooks and offer a few impressionable young Saffas visas...

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