An Alternate Eagle said it this morning - "we need to strike in the recruitment stakes, but the cupboard is bare". They are 100% correct. This time last year this same poster and my good self highlighted the impact a 16th team being granted entry to the NRL would have on the player market. Sadly our fears have come to fruition. The entry of the Gold Coast means there are at least 4 fewer blue chip signings available directly because they have bought them. Club's have also taken greater pains to retain their own blue chips before the anti-tampering deadline expired, meaning even fewer blue chips making their way onto the open market. LetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s not forget, by this time last year we already had our two blue chip signings in the bag ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? Kennedy and Kite. I think we can all remember how spectacularly unsuccessful we were after July 1. If rumours that Anasta is bound for Bondi are true, it means that this year there is only one legitimate blue chip signing left on the market ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? Orford ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? and Souths are desperate to throw everything and the kitchen sink at him to secure a marquee signing. This time last year there were at least 10 legitimate blue chip players coming up for grabs. We didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t land any of them. Apart from the obvious chase for Orford, what direction will ManlyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s recruitment take over the next month? I think there are two main strategies available to us. 1. Seek the rough diamond. This would be a re-hash of the strategy we employed in 2003. We could sign up several fringe first graders and junior players in the hopes that some of them would prove to be a rough diamond. Another vein to mine is that of injury struck players who have been off the radar for the past year or longer. Notable rough diamonds in recent years have been Willie Tonga, Scott Prince, Luke Covell and Carl Webb. However, for every Chris Hicks there seems to be a dozen of the likes of Ian Donnelly, Jye Mullane and Dallas Rennie. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢m not convinced of the merits of the scatter gun approach of seeking the rough diamond. It is very hit and miss and ends up with a lot of baggage, dead wood and disgruntlement in the ranks. There are also no guarantees that we will collect little more than a brood of mercenaries in the hope that one or two of them come goo, given time and opportunity. At best this should be a limited approach, but surely there is something else that will go hand in hand with it. Here are a couple of options: 2. Development of youth: This is an obvious approach, though one where we have lacked at times over the past decade. Thankfully Crusher Cleal has been recruited to the task and he seems to be doing it with aplomb. With two years under his belt there is every reason for confidence that we will begin to see some of the fruits of ClealÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s labour join Ashley Alberts in first grade over the next twelve months. Therefore, in many respects the club is now doing what it needs to do in this critical area of junior development. It is also a process that requires patience and time. We will begin to see some fruits next year but CrusherÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s work wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t come into its full fruits for a further two years at least. So whilst it gives us reason for long term optimism there is still the need to fill the breach over the short to medium term. Here are my thoughts: 3. Thinking outside the square: There have been several Englishmen in the English Super League that have expressed an interest in coming to the NRL for the challenge. LetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s be frank, we know that we canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t compete with the English clubs when it comes to the size of the salary. However, there are some things we can offer that they canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t, namely. . The opportunity to challenge themselves and prove their worth in what is generally agreed as the toughest Rugby League competition there is; and . The chance to make a lobster of themselves on Dee Why beach, something that seems to be in vogue with twenty-something Englishmen and indicative of the lifestyle and experience that we can offer that far exceeds stoking coal fires on the hearth in Wigan. Personally thereÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s something about attracting players wanting an opportunity to prove themselves and seeking a challenge that appeals far more than the possibility of being a transit lounge for the latest bunch of mildly talented Australian mercenaries. Thinking even further outside the square, I do think there is a market for fringe provincial players in Rugby Union who might be looking for a lifestyle change and a challenge. The expansion to a Super 14 makes this less likely, but there is the possibility that, in South Africa and the Pacific Islands in particular, there are fringe players who would appreciate the challenge of Rugby League and the opportunity to make a new life for themselves on Australian shores. Whether theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢d make a quick transition is the crucial factor, meaning that this search might be limited to backline players, possibly just wingers. At least we have form on the board in this area with Matthew Ridge and Craig Innes. Best case scenario? Joe Rokocoko tires of being on the outer with the All Blacks but decides the frigid tundra and pounds of England or the sushi and yen of Japan and comes looking for a challenge with us. Yeah, yeah, I know. We can all dream! One thing is for certain - it will be interesting to see how the next month unfolds.