Former Penrith boss and Channel Nine commentator Phil Gould has called on the NRL to raise the minimum age of players to 21.
The NRL currently has rules that prevent talented youngsters from playing rugby league before they turn 18.
However, ARLC commissioner Peter V’landys has confirmed that they are looking to reduce this by 12 months as the code looks to retain talented youngster Joseph Suaalii, who looks set to reject rugby union and sign a million-dollar deal with South Sydney when he turns 17 on Saturday.
This has angered Gould, who told Six Tackles with Gus that he believes that increasing the age would allow players to be protected from the intense pressures of the sport whilst ensuring that they have a future outside of rugby league.
“There are a number of reasons why we have tried to raise the age for playing in the NRL,” Gould said.
“I have written regularly over the decades that I think the age should be 21. I don’t think we should play players in the NRL until they are 21.
“It gives them a great opportunity to develop physically and mentally in an elite junior competition, but also get their education sorted and give themselves the foundations for a future without rugby league if that’s the way their life goes, or a future beyond rugby league if they do have a rugby league career.
He echoed the thoughts of former Cronulla captain Paul Gallen, believing that lowering the age could set a dangerous precedent.
“Changing the rule to suit this young boy from South Sydney because of a perceived tug-of-war between codes…I don’t know the reason behind this request, or why this statement was made,” Gould said.
“But I worry about the precedent that it sets, and what it may open itself up to.
“I actually sent a message off to Peter V’landys as soon as I heard his announcement, to say there was a reason why we set 18. I personally think it should be 21.
“I’m not in favour. The difference between 17 and 18 is only 12 months. I’ve seen the boy play and he’s obviously physically advantaged.
“But another 12 months is not going to stop him if he’s going to be an NRL player.”
National Rugby League, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Wayne Bennett, Phil Gould, Penrith Panthers, St. George Illawarra Dragons, Latrell Mitchell
World news – AU – NRL 2020: Phil Gould calls on NRL to raise minimum age of players to 21 amid Joseph Suaalii interest