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Changes to salary cap rules have complicated the player contracting process for New Zealand's transtasman league teams.
After five seasons, the ANZ Championship salary cap will be raised next year from $300,000 to $380,000, but the rules on third party payments and what teams need to declare under that cap have changed.
The introduction of a "hard cap" was supposed to lead to a more equal distribution of talent throughout New Zealand's five franchises.
But the lengthy hold-up in getting the new collective contract signed off, and the extended international season, left little time for the Silver Fern stars to contemplate a shift to another team.
By the time the new players' collective had been finalised, the Ferns were well ensconced in the national programme, forcing them to halt any contract negotiations.
Northern Mystics chief executive Julie Paterson said that while teams were granted an extension this year to assemble their line-ups, they still had an exceptionally limited timeframe to secure signatures.
"It has been a really challenging exercise. The Silver Ferns programme added the greatest degree of difficulty, because their season was so long and intense this year and we are not allowed to contact them in camp, it was hard to get any continuity in our communication," said Paterson.
Teams must submit at least 10 contracted players to the ANZ Championship office today, and confirm their full line-ups by the beginning of next week.
Given that the Silver Ferns only wrapped up their test programme on Thursday, it is unlikely any will spring a surprise move at this late stage.
The key movements have been signposted for quite some time.
The Pulse look to be the biggest benefactor in the off-season recruitment race, with Robyn Broughton luring back two former Steel alumni, Liana Leota and Donna Wilkins.
However, it is believed the Pulse is having difficulty finalising Wilkins' contract, with the Wellington-based franchise struggling to fit what it originally offered Wilkins under the new salary cap rules.
Wilkins has apparently sent her contract back to the Pulse several times.
Third party payments are still permitted with the new cap, but it must be a genuine contract for services and declared at the same time as the retainer contract.
- Dana Johannsen