Kris Radlinski proposes Super League salary cap change as Wigan Warriors chief makes NRL admission

John Davidson
Kris Radlinski Wigan Warriors Alamy

Wigan Warriors chief executive Kris Radlinski

Wigan Warriors CEO Kris Radlinski has admitted Super League clubs are powerless to stop NRL raids on their players with the current state of the salary cap, and is advocating change to the current system.

In the past month, South Sydney Rabbitohs have snapped up St Helens half-back Lewis Dodd from 2025, while Warrington Wolves back-rower Matty Nicholson has been snared by Canberra Raiders.

At the end of last year, Wigan themselves lost two forwards to NRL sides in Morgan Smithies and Kai Pearce-Paul.

Young St Helens prop George Delaney has attracted interest from Australian teams, while a number of Antipodean officials have visited English shores in the past few weeks and been eyeing up English talent.

Super League’s salary cap has stayed at the same limit of £2.1 million for the past five years, but a third marquee spot was added for homegrown players this year.

In contrast, the NRL’s current salary cap limit is £6.085 million (AUS$11.65 million) and is set to soar to £6.32 million (AUS$12.1 million) by 2027.

Radlinski concedes English clubs have little protection from approaches by cashed-up NRL outfits.

“It’s going to be a challenge because we’re unprotected really to a degree as clubs,” he told Love Rugby League.

“People can come in, and there are rules, but… the reality is you’re unprotected and with our salary cap being what it is there’s not much you can do.

“Now there are discussions taking place around the table about salary cap tweaks, adaptions, dispensations, or even getting rid of it all together.

“I’m aware of the current financial situation of the sport with the distribution down significantly, but I’m also aware that if we don’t do things a bit differently then we’ll continue to go that way.

“We come from a privileged position, but I’ve posed the question a number of times – what if it wasn’t there? And then clubs can spend what they feel they could afford.

“Realistically what is the different between what they’re doing currently? There’ll be a lots of people and lots of reasons why not, I understand that.

“But we need to get to a place where we’re at least having discussions about the future of the salary cap, what that likes look and probably in line with the IMG period.”

LRL RECOMMENDS: Every Super League club’s quota spots situation at midway point in 2024

Wigan Warriors CEO Kris Radlinski on the future of Super League’s salary cap

Wigan have several academy products shining in their first-team with admirers down under, such as forward Junior Nsemba.

The Warriors have lost countless players to the NRL in the past decade, including John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Joe Burgess, Harry Rushton, George Williams, Lee Mossop, Oliver Gildart and Dan Sarginson.

“We’ve got Junior on a pretty tight high-level contract,” Radlinksi said.

“And his contract increases significantly over the next few years. In addition to that, I know that my owner doesn’t want to lose these kinds of players.”

RELATED: Wigan Warriors wonderkid shares Wembley dream as England ambitions laid out

Rugby League Commercial has yet to confirm what the salary cap limit will be for the 12 Super League clubs in 2025.

Despite that, most Super League clubs have already completed the majority of their recruitment and retention decisions for next season.

“We sit here now, at the end of May, we don’t know what the salary rules for next season are,” Radlinski said.

“Bear in mind the market opened officially on May 1. It’s crazy.

“There was a regulation meeting on May 1 and all this was discussed, but it was on a longer list. I understand it’s a bigger decision, it’s probably a direction of the game decision.

“Who makes that direction of the game decision? Is it the governing body, or the people who are actually having to put the money in? So it’s probably an owners call really, so where do we want the direction of the game to look like. So that’s where it’s at.

“But there will be many reasons why we can’t, I understand that, but I just think we’re at a place now where we have some conversations, what does the next 10 years look like in line with IMG?

“What’s IMG’s thoughts on adapting the salary cap, in line with their projections and hopes and aspirations for the sport? That’s all I’d suggest. So many clubs are doing their business at the minute with the salary cap not settled.”

LRL RECOMMENDS: Leeds Rhinos and Manly Sea Eagles are rugby league’s weirdos: and the stats prove it