Carl Ablett’s ‘View from the Pitch’: Clear statement of intent needed from RFL over central contracts

St Helens' star Jonny Lomax.
St Helens' star Jonny Lomax.
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ST HELENS let the cat out of the bag when they announced Jonny Lomax’s new contract.

It’s good news for him and them that he has signed a two-year extension, but there was a sting in the tail of their announcement.

Richie Myler. PIC: Jon Buckle/PA Wire

Richie Myler. PIC: Jon Buckle/PA Wire

Saints put out a statement saying he “joins a group of players that the Rugby Football League (RFL) have contracted centrally to help promote the sport”.

That was news to me and probably most people in the game. I was aware the RFL were looking at central contracts, but didn’t know things had gone as far as players actually being put on these deals which are funded by the governing body.

The timing isn’t great and I think the way it was revealed – on the end of Saints’ statement – is a bit embarrassing for everybody concerned.

That was probably just a mix-up. I think the plan was for the RFL to make an announcement about central contracts later on, when all the deals have been handed out.

That would have made more sense because what has been revealed so far raises more questions than answers.

There needs to be a lot more clarity about the issue of central contracts.

What I would like to know is who, why and how much?

Obviously the sport wants to keep its best players. Rugby union – and clubs in Australia’s NRL – are recruiting from Super League and that’s a big concern.

As soon as anyone makes an impact in Super League we start to hear rumours he is being looked at by rugby union clubs or Aussie teams.

We don’t have a huge pool of players in this country and the competition is bound to suffer if the best players move on.

More has to be done to keep our best talent in Super League, but apparently the extra money on offer is around £25,000.

That’s not to be sneezed at, but in comparison with the cash washing around in union it is small change.

Is an extra £25,000 going to persuade someone to turn his back on the other code and stay in league? I am not sure it is.

We have an England elite performance squad, but there’s 27 players in that and only around 12 central contracts.

So 15 players are good enough to represent their country, but not so good some extra money is on offer to keep them in rugby league.

Who has decided which players get central deals and how?

There needs to be more information from the RFL.

Rugby league is a tough game and I think players deserve every penny they get.

As far as I am concerned, good luck to the ones who are getting a bit extra, but surely the contracts should be awarded to everyone in the England squad, not less than half of them? That can only cause issues. If it’s not handled properly that sort of division can create splits in the camp.

It could also cause problems and bad feelings between clubs, if some are getting help to keep their best players and others aren’t.

If Saints are getting help to keep Lomax, how are another club going to react when they face losing a player because he’s got a bit better offer elsewhere?

I think the big issue is whether there’s enough money in the sport to be handing out central contracts. Again, I am not sure there is.

Central contracts sound like a good idea and they probably are, but I think there needs to be a lot more explanation from the governing body.

They need to make it clear who has made the decision, how much extra cash is on offer and, most importantly, who’s getting it.

In other news, it’ll be good to link up with Richie Myler when he joins us in the off-season.

I think he’s a good signing and someone who can add a bit to our team. He’s an experienced half-back who has played for England and some good clubs under quality coaches.

He did well at Warrington and he is a Challenge Cup winner who has also played in a Grand Final and, at 27, he has got his best years ahead of him.

He can score tries and he has a good kicking game.

From what I know of him, he’s a confident player and someone who can direct a team around the field so he will give us a bit more direction.

Apparently he has signed for the next three years, but we’ll have to wait and see how and where he fits into the squad.

What’s going to happen with Danny (McGuire) and Rob (Burrow) at the end of this year is still to be finalised so there’s some big decisions to be made over the next few months.