The Cumberland Throw

The Spotlight – Are The Eels Ready For A Marquee Recruit?

The recent news that David Fifita is re-considering his future at the Broncos post 2020 has set the rugby league world buzzing. Clubs are suddenly crunching their numbers to determine whether they have the capacity to offer the type of coin necessary to secure this potentially generational player for next season.

This got me thinking – a dangerous outcome at the best of times!

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-auburn

During the Brad Arthur era, the only true marquee signing for the Eels has been Kieran Foran. Forget about the issues faced by Foran. Though I can assure readers that Brad Arthur went above and beyond to support Kieran during difficult times (acknowledged by Foran in the media), the Eels were an off-field basket case and the 2016 salary cap dramas emphasised that the club was not ready for such a high profile, highly salaried recruit.

Let me also be clear. I’m not suggesting that other recruits or other players on the Eels roster aren’t quality players. I’m defining a marquee recruit as a player who would attract interest from most clubs, along with a top of the market salary commensurate with the demand for his services.

Over the past 18 months, Parra has assembled a roster which is arguably amongst the best in the NRL. Through quality, targeted recruitment, Arthur has ensured that positions of weakness have become areas of strength and the club has transformed from wooden spoon holders to a Premiership heavyweight in a remarkably short period of time.

In 2020, the Eels will field a very balanced top 17. There might be a few players on relatively high incomes, but there’s not the type of unhinged expenditure on select individuals that creates salary cap pressure and the need to offload players. Parra would undoubtedly express their gratitude to Penrith for subsidising a couple of key recruits.

Shaun Lane

As things stand, there are 14 players in the Eels top 30 who are off contract at the end of the current season. Of those, Stefano Utoikamanu has agreed to terms with the Tigers for 2021, whilst the high profile signatures of Shaun Lane and Reed Mahoney are yet to be secured. Kane Evans is now in the final year of his deal and Brad Takairangi remains unsigned having extended for just one season. Outside of the 14 players, Nathan Brown holds a player option for 2021, and is yet to indicate his intentions.

Depending on the result of negotiations, along with the decisions about the remaining off-contract players, the Eels could be left with a significant “war chest” to make a decent play for a marquee player such as Fifita.

But is that the way to go?

Locking in Mahoney and Lane would ensure that the Eels top 17 remains relatively unchanged moving into 2021. That level of stability is almost unheard of for an NRL club. But would stability take the club to the next level if the current team falls short in its Premiership campaign this season?

Every team should add new personnel to their roster each year in order to avoid stagnation, so we can therefore expect departures from the current top 30. The option, based on cap space created, is to either spend up on a marquee addition or to add depth to specific positions.

David Fifita

It’s hard to deny the impact that a David Fifita could provide for any team. The Broncos back rower is already the ultimate game-breaker. His power, mobility and pace out wide creates havoc at both club and representative level footy. Such is this 20 year old’s current standing in the game, it’s unfair to compare any edge player of similar age to him.

Wherever Fifita plays, he won’t come cheap. Therein lies the problem for any club looking to add him, or someone of a similar ilk, to their roster. The cost is not just in the money spent on him, it’s the money not spent on others. It might mean releasing a valued player or two. It might mean losing talented pathways players. It might mean sacrificing depth.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. A club might sign a marquee player with the hope of attracting other quality players, but this doesn’t always work.

For many seasons, the Eels boasted one of the NRL’s most elite athletes – Jarryd Hayne. He was home grown, but that didn’t mean that his continued retention didn’t come with significant costs. Without being disrespectful, from 2010 onwards Hayne had to take the field alongside some players who would have struggled to get an NRL gig at another club. His talent alone couldn’t lift the Eels to finals football, and the Blue and Golds continued to struggle to attract better players.

Similarly, unrealistic expectations should not be made if Fifita were to sign with a struggling club. Look no further than Kalyn Ponga for further evidence on that front. Without question, Fifita’s management would take such factors into consideration.

But the Eels are no longer a struggling club. They are not the 2010 – 2016 version which firstly competed with inferior personnel, then imploded administratively courtesy of the salary cap scandal. So are they ready or suited to add a marquee recruit?

Under the administration of Bernie Gurr and the merit selected Football Board of Directors, the Eels have become a salary cap role model. The processes in place provide complete transparency about all contracts registered with the NRL. Without question, those high standards will remain under new CEO, Jim Sarantinos and Head of Football Mark O’ Neill.

Then there’s the new Kellyville training facilities, a world class Bankwest Stadium, and a membership base which competes with the Rabbitohs to be the leading club in Sydney.

Off-field, the club is therefore ready to be a viable destination for the game’s elite.

On-field, there’s a strength in the roster to ensure that a marquee recruit wouldn’t be waging a solo war on a weekly basis.

The Eels have a top heavy squad. Like most genuine Premiership contenders, though there’s potential in the depth, the money is spent at the top end of the roster, and few “names” sit outside the top 17. Unless a highly salaried player is released, a player of Fifita’s caliber could only be secured by sacrificing club depth.

Reed “Cash” Mahoney

Nothing is certain in rugby league, but with the likes of Mahoney and Lane reportedly close to extending their time at the club, and the option sitting in Nathan Brown’s favour, it seems that a top 17 player is unlikely to be on their way out.

So would you sacrifice overall depth to secure a superstar?

As CEO, if Fifita’s agent told you that his client wants to pull on your club’s jersey, surely only insanity or an absurd asking price would stop you from setting a new speed record for signing a cheque. But, if you were the Eels CEO, would you enter a competitive marketplace, knowing the price will be high in many respects.

I don’t have an answer. I think chasing someone like Fifita is incongruous to the Eels current recruitment policies, but you’d surely consider dipping your toe in the water for someone like him. Or would you?

So whether it’s Fifita, or any other potential marquee recruit, do the Eels possess the type of roster or perhaps culture that would suit paying big coin to one player above all others?

If only real life roster building was as easy as NRL SuperCoach.

Eels forever!

Sixties

 

Credit to Eels media and Broncos media for the images used.

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Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Interesting blog sixties, and one that hurts the grey matter a bit regarding the contemplation of this and its perhapser end piece. There are more than a few questions to look at and answer regarding this perhapser to sign. I use the perhapser tag as no disrespect to the player at all as he is very much more than just that. As I look down the list of players off contract at the eels next season, especially those in the forwards, and then look at Fifita’s position which I listed as 2nd row, at his general size he’s a definite… Read more »

Longfin Eel
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Longfin Eel

Only if the price was right and we had a slot for him. You are right though, every club would almost fall over themselves to sign him. When you consider where the club is heading, we need the whole top 30 to act as one team. Every player on the park knowing his role and those outside the top 17 ready to fill a specific void due to injury or form. If a player such as Fifita can still fit within that framework then he would be welcome, but marquee players rarely ever just slot in. Invariably the team changes… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

Short answer is Yes you would; but looking at our roster of players, we would need to shift i.e. not sign a few and then bring on some juniors. Yes for me but Fifita imo won’t leave Broncs unless for Souths or a Melbourne but Melb do not really pay overs for players but they may need to change their thought process.
Issue for me is the cost, as I am not comfortable paying $1mill plus for a backrower / prop type player.

Jim
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Jim

Watching the Eels v south trial on Friday showed the Eels need to lock up Mahoney asap. When he was on the field the attack was straight at the line then once he was off it was side to side. Lock in Lane as well & by all means they should defiantly look into Fifita but I certainly wouldn’t break the bank for him. Great young player but as we all know from the Hayne era, One player can’t win you a comp no matter how good he is & we have a really strong team FINALLY. Fifita played his… Read more »

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

There’s no question he’s an awesome player, but there’s a reason why they call the 1, 6, 7, & 9 positions the spine. That’s where the top money should be invested as far as I’m concerned.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Totally agree trouser , no spine no chance, anyway 1.2 mill , that buys our whole back 3 in pack and there pretty close to equal anyones,the way our teams being built is ok with me , what about harmony , playing for each other ,hunger for an opportunity not money , our jumper not our money , all these greatest player ever until someone finds another one , there out there just find them first ,that way if you treat them right and create loyalty they stay for those reasons for less money because theyre contented ,i believe if… Read more »

NRL
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NRL

Without the front row you go nowhere. Many front row partnerships have hidden poor halves.

Fathead
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Fathead

I’ve spoken to Fifita myself and so have others I know who both know him and work at the Broncos. Forget the stupid media talk – he isn’t going anywhere and has no intention of moving. We need to move on.
Latrell is definitely going back to the Roosters in 2021 so he is off the table.
We need a good fast centre to take Jennings position.

John Eel
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John Eel

It was reported today that the Bunnies offered Fifita a five year deal for $5 million.

Sam Burgess was the salesman. He went to Brisbane in December last year. Fifita went close to signing but they failed to get the signature.

Was reported on FoxSport

The dead man
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The dead man

Good read. Are we are club that a tracks a high profile player/s i say no unless we pay overs like we did with whatmough. 4 yrs worth a zillion dollars n only played what 10 games or so. I think we are a all round balanced side with out a marquee player. We had Hayne n still didn’t bring home the title. so i think we stick with what we have. Looking at the Roosters they don’t have a marquee signing or player/s there a well rounded side. For the money that fafita is asking we could resign Lane… Read more »

Fletch
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Fletch

Sorry mate I struggle to take the Roosters as a viable example. They have what, 12 players who have represented their state and/or country? This includes Tedesco and had Cronk last year. If they’re not marquee then I don’t know what is. Yes I guess their team is well rounded but that’s because somehow they manage to afford so many players of such a high calibre. I think we are a well rounded team that is developing depth as well. I do however believe we are becoming a team that can/will attract the likes of marquee players given what we… Read more »

Brindmarsh
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Brindmarsh

Based on the current trajectory of our retention and recruitment strategy I’d have to say no, a marquee signing isn’t the answer. My general attitude towards marquees is that they are recruited to build a team around. This isn’t something the Eels require in my opinion. We’re admittedly a young squad but we seem to have built a good team culture with strong leaders. We’re looking as well balanced in both talent and salary cap as we’ve been in over a decade, with no single player breaking the bank, nor paying massive overs for under-performers. Plus we all saw how… Read more »

Offside
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Offside

1st off Fiffita will sign with the Broncos we see this every time a player does the off contract dance a delay and denials then announcement right on time for a good press relese.
In terms of a marquee signing at this point it will have to depend on who and what postion.
You sign a player you have to loose somone who is doing the role for less
Latrell Mitchell >Adam Douhilli as an example
So depends on 3 factors
Who you sign
Who you let go
Where does that signing put our cap in 2 years time.

BDon
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BDon

Sixties, I’m not sure what I thought about most after reading this – Fifita or the challenges in building and retaining a decent NRL roster. I’m thinking I’d like to see how we go in 2020. Can we eliminate those 4 or 5 games where we get towelled through the middle, can we improve our winning ratio v top 8 teams, can we improve our away record? These are the signs that we are heading into top 4 and beyond. Maybe if we can find our next level, the value of Fifita to the Eels, and what you might pay,… Read more »

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Great hypo Sixties, we’ve seen the passion it has ignited in the following posts. Some have replied to the question “Does a Marquee player fit the Parramatta methodology created by BA”? Others have been motivated to express their desire or lack of to sign David Fifita. Its a truly stimulating point of conjecture which I would like to add my opinion. I have really enjoyed how quickly BA and his confidantes have identified and secured the players we have in our current roster, which is as you say quite well balanced. He has done this inspite of the turmoil that… Read more »

Brett Allen
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Brett Allen

I’m an unashamed Fifita fan, but right now I think we need to develop this team we have now and see how far it really can take us. We have no real weaknesses apart from some minor backup gaps, and the addition of Ryan Matterson I think made going for Fifita an indulgence we just don’t need to take right now. Who knows, in 5 years time that could change, he is only 20. Let someone else take that risk right now. On top of that, I think Matterson & his ballplaying skills is a better fit with Waqa Blake… Read more »

West Coast Eel
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West Coast Eel

I think the re-signing of players such as Lane, Mahoney and Brown are more important, but if one or more of them move on, then why not go after Fifita. He’s obviously a great young talent. The other thing to consider is he will probably be the highest paid player on our roster. By not having that million dollar player, Parramatta have been able to recruit extremely well over the last few seasons. Our depth is amazing. Surely this would take a hit. Interesting topic. I’m not sure which way I’d go….

Glenn
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Glenn

We’re here to win a premiership and you recruit players that will deliver that to you, and you immediately think of the Roosters. They added just 2 players to win back to back, Tedesco and Cronk. We need the same mindset. Do we have a weakness in the back row? Not really but Fifita would massively improve that position. And our forwards do need strengthing, he’d be a weapon in attack and improve our defence, if just slightly. I doubt we’ll ever be top 2-3 in defence so you have to improve your attack to compensate. To me this is… Read more »

Zero58
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Zero58

Your second last paragraph summed it up well. You sign a marquee player you want a guarantee of loyalty from both sides. Big bucks for four years doesn’t make sense. Parra has a marquee player they just don’t know it yet. Ryan Matterson – I have watched him since he left Parra for Easts. He doesn’t have the dynamics of Fifta but, he has the makings of a loyal clubman and future captain. He is a very clever ball player and with muscle to back it up. Has a good footballers perception and I think he won’t put himself in… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

excellent post.

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

If a marquee centre became available next season I would certainly sign them. We are OK for this year but we need a centre for next year and it doesn’t look like our current crop of juniors are ready to make the jump. We have Hollis and Hughes coming through and I would wait for them rather than sign Fafita and smash our cap. Would any marquee centre really want to come to Parramatta? Yes. Israel Folau. I would sign him in a heartbeat and he could cover the entire backline. New anti religious discrimination legislation is in the pipeline… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

PT I like your thinking. Only question for me would be how he could handle centre especially in defence

Brett Allen
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Brett Allen

He was never a particularly good defender even in his Melbourne days, but what he would give you the other way would still make it worthwhile

John Eel
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John Eel

Brett I think Bennett tried to turn him into a centre at the Broncos. My memory tells me that it was not great. Seems he has played his best football in league as a winger

Brett Allen
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Brett Allen

Craig Bellamy had already started the transition, but the problem was that the Broncos already had Justin Hodges at right centre so Izzy had to pay left side and he wasn’t nearly as effective.

Brett Allen
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Brett Allen

The Roosters are already circling that particular wagon PT

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

I would not only be circling that wagon I would have a rider on every horse. I would also be supplying the bows and arrows. He would not bust our cap and he would want to come here.

Brett Allen
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Brett Allen

The Roosters also have the inside track with Catalan’s coach Steve McNamara used to be Robbo’s assistant and is still good mates with him.

The dead man
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The dead man

In time i think fafita will in the end play prop say in 2 / 4 yrs time. call me crazy but the way he runs tells me he will try n run over players with out the side step or passing game that fafita has.

DDay
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DDay

The roster development has been impressive each year since the salary cap fiasco to the point where the roster has the best balance and depth this year I can recall since the 80s.

And whilst Stefano may prove to be a loss in time, the club has promoted a long list; Reed, DBrown, Sivo, Marata etc with more to come.

So with the roster development and the club’s strategy and culture of being a development club I can’t see the need or room for a marquee – particularly if it means shedding players to make room.

John Eel
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John Eel

Sixties, while not a Marquee player, where does Jai Field fit into the equation If at all.

I don’t think he will be looking at a Development contract