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The NRL Player Movement Debacle

Updated on May 4, 2017

The last two months in the NRL has seen a record number of rumours surrounding player movements and contract negotiations. Since the scrapping of the June 30 deadline for contract negotiations it has been open slather for player managers to negotiate player contracts anytime this year. Everyday the media is reporting on new rumours of players leaving their clubs at the end of the season and even some wanting immediate releases. If this continues frustrated fans will always be feeling unsettled. The uncertainty of whether your clubs favourite players will stay or jump ship will become frustrating.

Josh Reynolds Announcement on Wests Tigers Instagram
Josh Reynolds Announcement on Wests Tigers Instagram

'The Big Four'

It all started with the Wests Tigers and the 'big four'. James Tedesco, Aaron Woods, Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses where the talking point. All coming off contract at the end of the year the tigers where looking to get all of their signatures quickly. After a lacklustre performance against Canberra in Round 3 losing 46-6 the Tigers board announced the sacking of coach Jason Taylor. This was a harsh decision for Taylor who was brought in by the board to clean out the team (which included the controversial sacking of Robbie Farah) in 2015 and should have been given the full year to improve the team.

Maybe not securing the contracts of the big four had a hand in his sacking but it didn't improve the tigers' chances of securing the players with a coachless club. Ivan Cleary was announced as new coach three weeks ago and reportedly straight away put a deadline on the signing of the superstar players. Tedesco has apparently signed with the Sydney Roosters but also denied doing so to the media. Aaron Woods did exactly the same thing supposedly signing a contract to join the Canterbury Bulldogs next year and then telling the media this is untrue. This was then confirmed only a week later. Mitchell Moses agreed to play with the Parramatta Eels in 2018 and we know this is correct because his manager has asked for his release to go to the Eels immediately three times, all being denied by Cleary. So Luke Brooks is the only one of the big four to sign with the Tigers on a two year deal.


Aaron Woods interview on Fox Sports
Aaron Woods interview on Fox Sports

The Bulldogs

Every player coming off contract has been linked to joining the Bulldogs but there seems to be only a handful that will actually end up there. The Woods situation mentioned earlier has only just been confirmed after plenty of denying. He signed for four years starting in 2018. The only other off-contract player looking likely to end up with the dogs next year is Keiren Foran. This situation is particularly unique because Foran broke contract with the Parramatta Eels mid 2016 for personal reasons but then agreed to play 2017 with the New Zealand Warriors. The NRL had not even agreed to register the contract until around 6 months after Kieren's Manager confirmed the move. You would assume the Eels would not have been happy about this understandably.

The dogs have yet to confirm Foran's move but it is looking very likely. So for this to happen Canterbury needed to make some room in their cap and it looked likely that some under performing players might be moved on. Then from out of left field the space the Tigers now had in their cap allowed them to make a big money move for Belmore's golden child Josh Reynolds. With an offer of $950,000 a year for four years the Bankstown club withdrew their offer and gave Josh permission to leave. This hit the fans hard and an already split supporter base was fuming with the coach and board. Some feel they are ripping the culture out of the "family" club.

Another of Canterbury's favourite sons and captain James Graham has been the target of a campaign to get the englishman to the Newcastle Knights. They have the money in the cap but their poor 2016 performance has made it difficult to attract big name players to the steel city. The only big signing for 2018 they have so far is Kaylon Ponga, A young up and coming talent that is having a blinding hot season with the North Queensland Cowboys. Knights legend Matty Johns said on his fox league show that Graham could be the "most important signing ever for Newcastle. James is a winner and can teach the young blokes how to win. James could be to Newcastle in four years what Paul Harragon was". With backing like this it seems likely James could seriously think about a move.

Cooper Cronk

Maybe the biggest and most suprising bombshell announcement of 2017 so far came when Cooper Cronk held a press conference on the fourth of April to announce that he would be leaving the Melbourne Storm in 2018. Cooper will be moving to Sydney to be with his partner Fox Sports presenter Tara Rushton. This sent the NRL Sydney clubs into a frenzy all knowing that the money spent on Cronk would almost certainly guarantee rewards. The only problem with this is he hasn't ruled out retiring at the end of the year so no contracts have been signed as of yet.

This announcement also proves that the Melbourne Storm will be very hard to beat in 2017 and are clear favourites to take the title. The last season Cooper will play with his two superstar Queenslanders Cameron Smith and Billy Slater. Cameron continues to get closer to breaking the all time point scoring record. It is predicted he will play the most games in the NRL and has the best winning average record. Billy has just returned from a year on the sidelines. Slater immediately hit peak form since his return and looks like he was never away. They are shortest odds of any NRL team currently paying $3.75 to win this year's premiership.

Cooper Cronk. Photo: Tim Carrafa
Cooper Cronk. Photo: Tim Carrafa

The Biggest Rumours

Among the many other rumoured movements happening in the near future here are some of the biggest. Josh Dugan is said to be unhappy being payed a centres wage at the dragons while playing fullback so if St.George-Illawarra does not up his wage he will go elsewhere. The Titans were said to be having second thoughts about Jarrod Hayne but at the moment it appears both parties are happy. Dane Gagai looks like he is not happy at the knights, it wouldn't be good for Newcastle's recruitment drive to lose an origin player like Dane.

Shaun Johnson has actually re-signed with the Warriors for two more years which is good news for them. Jack Bird is moving to the Bronco's to hopefully play five eight which came as a shock to everyone. Similar to the Dugan situation of wanting to play in a more dominant position getting the ball more often.

Semi Radradra and the assualt charges made against him have been thrown out so his future with Parramatta this year is unknown. Heading to French rugby after the league season many thought once court proceedings were over Semi might leave straight away. He is still in Australia at the moment.

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Kieren Foran
Kieren Foran

Shaun Kenny-Dowall is rumoured to be heading to the Newcastle Knights in 2018. These are only the major rumours about the NRL at the moment. This year has contained a different contract story nearly everyday since the season started. It is a headache for fans but it gives the media something to talk about seven days a week. The new Fox League station on Fox Sports would be loving the debacle, giving their daily NRL news shows like 360 and Sterlo the essential news to keep the shows relevant.

Even Anthony Mundine has come out 'Again' and said he wants to play NRL for the Dragons at age 42. 2017 so far has sure been non-stop craziness when it comes to player contracts, and the season isn't even half over yet!.

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