Tuesday, April 16, 2013

George North: Who wins?

Last week George North finally completed is switch to Northampton Saints in one of rugby's worst kept secrets. The switch became the epicentre of the player drain debate that has threatened to envelop Welsh rugby and pitted regions against the WRU. So, who will benefit from the deal? Lets take a look what the switch means to those involved.
George North
First, the man himself, Gogzilla. North has proven himself as Wales' number one winger. On the international stage he is virtually irreplaceable and it would be a massive shock he wasn't a Lion test player this summer. Things are no different with the Scarlets, but North's international involvement means he played just 12 games for his region last season. The schedule will be more gruelling in the Aviva Premiership.
However, the reward for that work may also be higher. Much has been made of the money Welsh players can earn outside the principality, but that's surely not the only alluring factor. Top sportsmen are bred to win, it's their mentality, it's their job and, without doubt, the Premiership is a more prestigious league. The English clubs are also closer to getting their hands on the Heineken Cup than Welsh regions by a distance measurable only in lightyears. As it stands, if players want some meaningful silverware, they have to leave Wales.
Without 'Gatland's rule' being implemented this is surely a great deal for the talented and ambitious North.

Northampton Saints
Put simply, it's a great move for them as North is such a quality player. Strong, agile, quick and technically gifted, North is one of the most potent threats in North Hemisphere rugby and still just 20 years old.
The only flaw in the Saints transfer activity will be that they may have needed to concentrate on creativity a little further in field to get things started.

A mixed bag for the West Walians. North is a big loss and one of the regions truly great players. The Scarlets back division is not lacking in talent, but North is the pick of the bunch.
That said, the Scarlets are hardly rolling in cash at the moment and a quarter of a million to realise North early is a huge amount of mouldy old dough. Add that to the gap left in the pay structure left by North's departure and it could mean some much needed reinforcements. It may be shrewd move on the Scarlets part, with North due to travel to Australia, take part in the Autumn Internationals and compete at the Six Nations, you have to wonder how many game North would have played before his contract expired.

Not good I'm afraid as the player drain continues. Since the toothless threat of non Welsh based players being looked on less favourably for international duty, it seems that half of Wales and their sheep have jumped ship. The perils of a tougher game schedule could lead to tired and injured stars come international time and little chance of release for outside the designated IRB window.
It's also terrible for promoting the regions as products, which the WRU is already failing at, not to mention the development of the game. For Wales to keep up, it must invest in youth, get youngsters interested in the game. The best and easiest way I by giving the idols to aspire to, icons to become. When these idols leave, who do the young players look up to? The George North's of tomorrow need the George North's of today.
The only flickering, glimmer of light in the pitch black for the WRU is that by playing better, stronger teams on a regular basis, players becoming better, stronger players. The Aviva is certainly stronger.

This move may be the lynch pin of the future of regional rugby in Wales. It has has served to highlight the ever widening canyon between the regions and the WRU. However, lets not forget the career of a good and talented young man that hinges on the success of this transfer. George North has made a bold decision to cross the Severn and ply is trade on the other side of the bridge. It's a decision I think, he has made correctly.

The Bridge - Elton John

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