NRL’s lost boys: 30 players who can’t find a club
THIS is the NRL's squad of 30 "homeless" players still without a club heading into Christmas.
While they might not be rugby league's biggest names, they have become the face of a huge issue that some of the NRL's most experienced football minds fear is tearing apart the game's talent pool.
It relates to ridiculous red tape that is today destroying dreams.
As it stands, every NRL club is restricted to owning a top squad of 30 players.
As well, a further six development players are also eligible to play in the top grade in any given season but only after June 30.
What this means is that some exceptional young players - including Jai Field and Tyrell Fuimaono, as well as seasoned professionals such as Kyle Turner and Michael Lichaa - are being locked out because clubs can't afford to carry them as back-up players, simply because they can't be used in the top grade.
So many are ultimately lost to the game for good.
In past decades, clubs would have a stack of experienced players combined with young talent holding up the lowers grades.
Importantly, all were eligible for a call-up if the stars aligned at their perfect moment in time.
After the most recent players' collective bargaining agreement it was decided to look after the top squad and put white-out through the rest.
Apparently, it was designed to stop clubs stock piling stars and give greater player security.
Instead it has really created another rod for the NRL's back.
Peter Mulholland, Canberra's recruitment chief, has worked at every level of coaching and recruitment over four decades.
He believes this issue has the potential to leave the NRL short of its most important asset in years to come - talent depth.
"The system is wrong because it limits who a club can play," Mulholland said.
"What is wrong with a bloke having a dream of playing one NRL game?
"If I had played one first-grade game it would have been the pinnacle of my career.
"But now, you might have a guy who jumps out of the ground one year and is ready for NRL.
"But if he is not in your top 30 you can't play him.
"Every club would have six or seven of these type of players who could still be playing reserve grade that you could bring up if you had to and they would do a job.
"But you can't do it anymore.
"So these players are often lost to the game and it is taking away depth and experience and it is not good."
Respected player agent Steve Gillis agreed: "I think there has to be a better solution and I have no doubt it will be refined at some stage but when I don't know."
But it could be too late for many on this list that includes Kyle Turner, Josh Hoffman, George Fai, Patrick Mago, Michael Lichaa, Danny Fualalo, John Olive, Nu Brown, Kaiyne-Lee Kalache, Aaron Gray, Brenko Lee, Jack Stockwell, Greg Leleisiuao, Hame Sele, Paea Pua, Nick Lui-Toso, Jai Field, Lachlan Maranta, Patrick Kaufusi, Darren Nichols, Lachlan Timm, Billy Brittain, Jacob Gagan, Mawene Hiroti, Bernard Lewis, Lloyd Perrett, Tyrell Fuimaono, Zac Woolford, Javid Bowen and Gideon Gela-Mosby.
These are the names we have identified but there would be more.
In an era when the NRL has never had greater financial riches all this experience is apparently too expensive to keep. And it is not just older players, but young guns with huge potential such as Tyrell Fuimaono.
This bloke was a junior representative at every level for NSW - from 16s up and including 18s, 20s as well as Junior Kangaroos.
But consecutive injuries while playing at South Sydney and Penrith have left his career at the crossroads.
He might get a club for next year, he might not.
But at just 23 is he too young and talented for the game to give up on?
Right now Fuimaono is working on a building site and hoping to get a late call up before Christmas.
"It is making players retire far too early," Mulholland added.
"This is not about them wanting to be paid top dollar, it is about giving them opportunity.
"They just want to play footy and have a shot at playing NRL if they are good enough.
"How can we afford not to give them that?"
NRL'S HOMELESS STARS
|Player / former club||Player / former club||Player / former club|
|Josh Hoffman (Eels)||Brenko Lee (Titans)||Lachlan Timm (Dragons)|
|Greg Leleisiuao (Eels)||Jack Stockwell (Titans)||Kyle Turner (Rabbitohs)|
|George Fai (Broncos)||Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers)||Billy Brittain (Rabbitohs)|
|Patrick Mago (Broncos)||Hame Sele (Panthers)||Jacob Gagan (Rabbitohs)|
|Michael Lichaa (Bulldogs)||Paea Pua (Panthers)||Mawene Hiroti (Rabbitohs)|
|Danny Fualalo (Bulldogs)||Nick Lui-Toso (Panthers)||Bernard Lewis (Roosters)|
|John Olive (Bulldogs)||Jai Field (Dragons)||Lloyd Perrett (Sea Eagles)|
|Nu Brown (Bulldogs)||Lachlan Maranta (Dragons)||Zac Woolford (Knights)|
|Kaiyne-Lee Kalache (Bulldogs)||Patrick Kaufusi (Dragons)||Javid Bowen (Cowboys)|
|Aaron Gray (Sharks)||Darren Nichols (Dragons)||Gideon Gela-Mosby (Cowboys)|