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By Danielle Smith
The debate has popped up once again about the appropriate time for NRL players to negotiate new contracts with other clubs.
Every year we see a player or two sign with another club, while still having time to go with their current team.
Last year Melbourne Storm’s Brandon Smith signed with the Sydney Roosters from 2024 in a much-publicised circus that clogged up the daily headlines.
It is alleged that Smith signed on with the Roosters without giving the Storm the final chance to counteroffer, something he had promised.
To rub salt into Melbourne’s wounds, they found out about Smith’s decision at the same time the rest of us did, during an appearance on the YKTR Sports Podcast where he informed everyone of his next move.
If I'm Melbourne I'm telling Brandon Smith forget about coming back. Unbelievably disrespectful to the club, his teammates and Storm fans to talk about winning a premiership at the Roosters.— cody kaye (@Cody_KayeFOX) November 28, 2021
Also seems redundant having a face to face with Bellamy. Think he knows now.
Seeing how Storm coach Craig Bellamy blows up during a game when things don’t go to plan, one can only imagine his reaction after that one.
And who could forget the leaked photo of Penrith Panther’s forward Viliame Kikau?
All decked out in Canterbury Bulldogs gear with the club’s coach Trent Barrett and Football Manager Phil Gould either side of him, after having just signed with the Bulldogs for 2024 with still a year to go at Penrith.
The photo emerged before Kikau could inform the Panthers and their supporters of his decision.
I’m sure all the ‘boos’ he received from the Penrith fans at the following day’s Grand Final Parade allowed him to gauge how they felt about his new signing.
Viliame Kikau really shouldn't be wearing Bulldogs gear if he's still playing for the Panthers - leaked photo or not #NRL— Curtis Woodward (@woodward_curtis) November 19, 2021
The latest instalment on the player negotiations merry-go-round comes after a meeting between new Dolphin’s coach Wayne Bennett and Newcastle Knights star playmaker Kalyn Ponga came to light.
The two met up on Saturday to discuss the possibility of Ponga joining the newest NRL franchise for next season.
Despite being contracted to the Knights until the end of 2024, Ponga has a clause in his contract that could potentially see him leave the club at the end of 2022.
This meeting caused a few in the game to fire up, especially the 8th immortal Andrew Johns.
Speaking on Channel 9’s Sunday Footy Show, Johns didn’t hold back on what he thought of the situation.
He said: "I just think it's poor form if Wayne flew down to Newcastle to meet with a player while they're playing that season.
"It would definitely be a distraction.
"I think it's poor form to fly to someone's hometown, while they are still playing, to try to get them to go to their club next year or whenever.”
Johns’ co-host Brad Fittler agreed that something needs to change, suggesting that at the end of the season there should be a specific period for all contract negations and signings.
And I completely agree.
The discussions that take place during the season are a complete distraction not only for the player in question but the entire club.
The back and forth, the yes and no, having the rest of the team constantly asked by the press if they know what is going on – it becomes too much.
And then there is everything that happens after the signing. Once a player has put pen to paper, they think they can push it all to the side and focus on the rest of their time at their current club.
But once a player announces a future move, current teammates question effort, fans question loyalty, journos just want to talk about there being no allegiances in rugby league anymore - it’s just bitter all around.
From the player's personal perspective, I’m sure it would be nice for them and their family to have more time to relocate. Spending some time getting a new house, working out the kids’ schools - but unfortunately, the world isn’t always nice.
For many of us, if we decide to change employers we might give a couple of weeks’ notice to our current workplace, get a week off in between if we are lucky, and then straight into the next gig.
If uprooting the family is required, and happens in the background, it’s usually chaotic but is part and parcel with the offer of a promotion and a bigger paycheque.
Jamayne has been granted an immediate release from his contract with the club.— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) March 22, 2022
We wish him and his young family all the best in the next chapter.
Some players move clubs effective immediately. Playing for a team one week and a new one the next, so getting things organised in an offseason shouldn’t be a problem.
“How great was that game on Sunday?”
“How did he manage to kick a goal from the sideline in the pouring rain?”
“Do you think your boys will make the finals?”
That’s what we should be talking about during the season. Not about a player’s potential club switch.
The NRL needs to implement a trading window out of the regular season for all contract negations and signings to take place.
No more of these ugly distractions throughout the year – we just want to watch some footy.
Featured Image Credit: Speed Media/Alamy. Facebook/clarkeys.rl.column.
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