Warriors boss issues stark warning to NRL over planned changes around rugby union raids

The NRL is hoping more players will follow the lead of Mark Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon.

The NRL club set to benefit the most if salary cap exemptions are introduced to entice rugby union players to the 13-man code has pointed out an enormous loophole in the proposal. The Warriors have All Blacks and Super Rugby players at their doorstep in New Zealand and would be well placed to exploit any plan to encourage union stars to make the switch.

The Wahs are challenging rugby for popularity in New Zealand, selling out all their 2024 home games and attracting huge television ratings on the back of a strong season last year that saw them finish one game shy of the grand final. If the NRL was to relax its salary cap rules to encourage clubs to plunder the best rugby union talent, the Warriors would be in the box seat to secure some of union's biggest names.

Pictured left Carter Gordon and right Mark Nawaqanitawase
The NRL is hoping more players will follow the lead of Mark Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon.

The Roosters have already secured Wallaby winger Mark Nawaqanitawase while teammate Carter Gordon is headed to the Gold Coast Titans. Gordon has been released by Rugby Australia and can link with Des Hasler's squad effective immediately, while Nawaqanitawase will land at Bondi after playing in Australia's rugby 7s campaign at the Paris Olympics.

Manly has also got in on the act, signing promising Australian under-18s rugby half Joey Walsh as a potential long-term replacement for skipper Daly Cherry-Evans. NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has boldly declared rugby league will go after the best talent available, regardless of the code.

"With rugby league booming, we want the very best male and female athletes playing the game," he told News Corp. "We want to see great athletes transition from others sports and test themselves in the NRL and NRLW. The opportunity to attract new fans and players to the code has never been greater."

Penrith great Greg Alexander predicts there will be a "stampede" of rugby players looking to swap codes if the cap exemption is introduced. But Warriors CEO Cameron George is sceptical, pointing out a major loophole in the proposal.

MACKAY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 27: The Warriors gather in a huddle during the round 24 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canberra Raiders at BB Print Stadium, on August 27, 2021, in Mackay, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Warriors CEO Cameron George is unsure if the salary cap loophole will work they way the NRL intends.

"In theory, I don't know how it could work," he told Radio SEN's Matt White. "I’ll be sending players over to play rugby union next week if that's the case and then bringing them back on an exemption.

"What is defined as a rugby player? How long have they had to have played rugby for? In theory it might all sound okay but there would have to be a lot of detail around that otherwise there could be a lot of people getting exemptions that maybe shouldn’t be."