To save everyone the effort.
Youth Revolution To Protect Best Talent
The NRL will consider a proposal this week to scrap premier league and replace it with a youth competition.
The idea behind the proposal, which will be put to the NRL board on Tuesday, is to allow the cream of rugby league's young talent to obtain a proper introduction to elite football.
However, it is believed the NRL will not impose an age limit on first-graders. The game's hierarchy - and marketing gurus - know the value of fast-tracking whiz-kids such as 19-year-olds like Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne and Melbourne's Greg Inglis.
The NRL will be told an age-specific competition would allow a young player to continue working on their game without playing against older premier league players.
The competition, with a working title of the Youth Cup will be the curtain-raiser to all first-grade games, making it the second-most prominent rugby league competition in Australia.
Unlike the premier league competition, every NRL club - including the New Zealand Warriors and the Gold Coast Titans - would be required to field a team.
Clubs such as Newtown, Balmain Ryde, Cougars, North Sydney and Wests that are competing in the 13-team strong premier league would play in a third-tier competition for older players. Many would remain as feeder clubs for NRL teams.
It has not been decided if the age limit will be set at 17, 19 or 21.
Australian Rugby League boss Geoff Carr, NSW Rugby League Academy coaching and development officer Martin Meredith and Penrith Panthers recruitment officer Peter Mulholland are among those who have worked on the blueprint.
It's believed the competition is being tailored to accommodate such things as the players' growth spurts.
It will allow young stars more time to finetune their skills and provide the next wave of top-graders an insight into the demands that would be expected of them in the NRL.
Although a competition boasting the stars of the future would appeal to many potential sponsors, there is sure to be a push from traditionalists to retain the names Jersey Flegg or SG Ball.
Former Australian Test captain Brad Fittler, a teenage phenomenon with Penrith, and Parramatta's outstanding young halfback Tim Smith yesterday led a chorus of calls that "if you're old enough you're good enough". However, Inglis said the NRL should be commended for trying to protect growing players from themselves.
"I reckon they're doing the right thing, I'm glad they're thinking about it," he said.
"But if you're already playing first grade, you should be allowed to stay there."
The 2005 rookie of the year Tim Smith, 21, subscribed to the good-enough-is-old-enough theory. "I was 20 when I played my first game last year," he said. "I'd have been shattered if I couldn't play first grade because they thought I was too young.
"You can see their point, but what about someone like Greg Inglis?
"It'd be a bit rough if he couldn't play for another couple of years. You wouldn't think he'd enjoy playing anything else.
"He's already playing the toughest game around.
"I don't think anyone would want blokes like him to not be playing."
Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall made his debut at 18. He's been outrageously successful but his body hasn't always coped.
Ditto Inglis. Ditto the Bulldogs' Sonny Bill Williams. Parramatta's Ben Smith is built like a tank but has been dogged by injuries since making his debut at 19 in 2004.
The debate is whether the young guns, whether they like it or not, need time to mature.
"No," Fittler said. "Good enough, old enough, put them in."
Carr yesterday refused to discuss details of proposal, saying it is something he wanted to speak to NRL directors about first.
"Parramatta chief executive Denis Fitzgerald first raised the idea of an under-20 competition but our research shows an under-20 competition would be too expensive to run," Carr said.
"What we've done is come up with a few other ideas and we could see the results in another way."
This could mean a younger age division, such as one for 19-year-olds. But some supporters will push for the competition to be as high as the under 23s because it would be a greater catchment area for players.
Another advantage of the competition is it would place a heavy emphasis on clubs to develop and nurture their juniors.
The Bulldogs academy is being held up as the prototype for others to follow. The club has invested more than $1 million in the academy since it was established 10 years ago.