Arguably the most talked-about contractual clause in Australian sport is officially no more.
The NRL’s round 13 loophole was finally closed at 5pm on Wednesday, ending any chance of another player following in the controversial footsteps of Daly Cherry-Evans.
The freshly re-signed Manly halfback will go down in history as the last player to exploit what started out as a well-intentioned rule, but ended up as another blight on the game.
“The rule has been of some benefit to some players over the years… and it was introduced mainly to assist clubs in the first instance,” Rugby League Players’ Association chief executive David Garnsey said.
“But having said that, it’s true there has been some creation of uncertainty or unwanted attention that, possibly, we’re better without.”
Cherry-Evans’ decision to spurn the contract he signed with Gold Coast and take up a revised offer from Manly was the final straw for a rule that too often resulted in fan heartbreak.
His now-infamous backflip not only robbed the Titans of the player they hoped to build their future around, but it hugely damaged their other recruitment plans, which were predicated on the presence of the Queensland State of Origin playmaker.
Several other big-name players, including Roosters fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manly pivot Kieran Foran and Dragons forward Trent Merrin, all had until close of business on Wednesday to change their minds.
None did, and now they will move to the clubs they have committed to next year.
In response to an overwhelming groundswell of criticism from coaches, commentators and fans, the NRL has changed the rules to give players a 10-day cooling off period to renege after signing a contract.
No player signing announcement can be made by a club until after that cooling off period, and no player can sign with a new club until the final year of their contract.
“We’ve listened to the fans, listened to the clubs, we’ve made a clear change,” NRL head of football Todd Greenberg told NRL HQ.
“I think most public expectation is that when you sign a contract, that’s it – that’s the final piece.
“I think it’s sensible, it’s pragmatic and it will come straight into force.”
The new guidelines are only an interim measure until NRL head of strategy Shane Richardson’s all-encompassing review of the game is complete.