Josh Dugan of the Raiders is tackled during the round one NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Centrebet Stadium on March 10, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.
Josh Dugan of the Raiders is tackled during the round one NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Centrebet Stadium on March 10, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Matt King / Getty Images

Is Corey Norman honestly worth $400K a season?

THE salary cap may well have given us a more even NRL playing field, but it could quite conceivably kill the notion of clubs developing their own players.

Recently the players' association reached a five-year collective bargaining agreement with the ARL Commission in respect of player payments.

From $5.85 million this year, the cap will rise annually to a whopping $7 million in 2017.

That is why Parramatta can afford to pay 22-year-old Broncos playmaker Corey Norman a reported $400,000 a year for the next three seasons.

And that is also why clubs like the Broncos would be well within their rights to ditch their 25-year player and game development program and simply go the market in the future when they need to fill a void.

I have long held the belief Corey Norman is a gun.

He is an exceptional talent, has rare on-field vision and is without doubt the future playmaker the Broncos need.

But is he honestly worth $400K a season after only 50 games?

Norman came into the Broncos fold as a 16-year-old scholarship holder. In the intervening six years, the club has ploughed all its specialised and human resources into his development.

And even though he wasn't happy, the plan this year - and maybe next - was to play him at fullback to further develop not just his vision, but also his instincts.

It was a strategy endorsed recently by the great Darren Lockyer, who followed a similar path in his evolving years.

Norman and his advisers, however, envisaged a different pathway to what most believe is inevitable stardom, and that is absolutely his right.

And those who know the very likeable young bloke will wish him well at the Eels.

But it is a kick in the guts for the Broncos, and one that might just alter their thinking about player development.

Since the inception of the club, the Broncos have spent many, many millions on development of the game, particularly in schools.

Currently a dozen people - many ex-players - are employed under a scheme that costs the club close to $1 million annually.

The patience, however, is wearing thin.

Once the Broncos rarely lost a player they wanted to keep, but more recently that number has increased disturbingly.

If the NRL is not prepared to provide salary-cap discounts for local products, clubs are entitled to question why they should run an expensive development department.

After all, the players they are developing are for the open market, and not for their exclusivity.

Quick-fix six

WHAT a magnanimous gesture by Blake Ferguson, the Raiders centre suspended for a week after frolicking on a rooftop with Josh Dugan, who was sacked by the club.

Ferguson has pledged to refrain from alcohol consumption for six weeks.

Not six months or six years, but six weeks.

No doubt his teammates have been totally reassured by that commitment.

After all, Ferguson and his insolent and boozy mate Dugan were merely guilty of condemning the Raiders to a week of headline-grabbing surpassed only by the political disaster in the national capital.

I'm all for a cold beer after a hard day's work, but fair dinkum - is a six-week abstinence from the lunatic soup a sacrifice?

When recently asked the worst aspect of the life of an NRL player, Ferguson said being unable to behave like a normal young bloke, which in his language apparently means drinking on the rooves of houses, attending training sessions under the influence and spitting on people at rock concerts.

Clearly, he has behavioural problems and believes that six weeks off the drink is the remedy.

To accept that from him is a cop-out from his team mates, his coach, his club and the NRL.

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