Paul Kent: Days of players holding clubs to ransom are coming to an end
Paul Kent: Days of players holding clubs to ransom are coming to an end

Kent: Days of players holding clubs to ransom are over

For months Jason Saab sat at home refusing to take calls from the Dragons, who still paid his wage every month, if it matters.

His manager, acting as a buffer, pleaded for the club to leave him alone so he could sort out his issues, and here is where it gets a little delicate.

At the very least Saab's silence was happening at the same time he was being shopped to rival clubs for what turned out to be a significant contract upgrade.

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That he still had two more years at St George Illawarra, who were still paying his wages while he refused to answer the phone, seemed irrelevant in the end.

This is the way business is increasingly being done in the NRL.

The Dragons ultimately had no choice but to release him. For one, Saab was refusing to go to training.

Another Sydney club revealed Saab was shopped its way for figures approaching $900,000 over three years.

 

Jason Saab in Manly colours.
Jason Saab in Manly colours.

 

Given Saab was earning close to the minimum wage at the Dragons, about $120,000 a season, and with seven NRL games to his name, he was seeking almost a 300 per cent increase in salary.

Publicly, he claimed it was a mental welfare issue, citing the stress of the long drive to Wollongong.

Privately, at the very least, it was a profitable home vacation. Saab signed with Manly last week.

Finally, though, it appears the NRL has had enough.

One of rugby league's irritations, players breaking contracts for more money, is set to end with a simple piece of logical thinking.

The solution so easy you wonder why it did not come into place earlier, until you remind yourself of the previous administration and mournfully shake your head.

 

John Aloiai went to war with Wests Tigers. Picture: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos
John Aloiai went to war with Wests Tigers. Picture: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

 

The ARL Commission will meet Wednesday and consider a new rule forbidding players who break a contract from signing for more money at a rival club.

So Saab, for example, could join Manly for all the reasons he stated to leave the Dragons - but he would have to remain on the money the Dragons would have paid him for the next two seasons.

It will immediately remove the incentive for players to seek a release for the simple reason of making more money elsewhere, which is happening at an increasing rate in the game.

The rule is expected to sort out those who want to leave a club for legitimate personal reasons and those who are merely going for a pay rise.

This increase in players breaking contracts has accelerated player inflation in the game and driven clubs to a constant state of cannibalising each other.

And fans simply hate it, believing it is driven by greed.

Managers, and perhaps the richer clubs, will argue the new rule is a restraint of trade.

Yet contracts are contracts the world over. You cannot sell a house and, realising you sold it too cheap, then refuse to let the new owners in the door while you shop around for a bigger price.

 

Addin Fonua-Blake signed with the Warriors on an inflated contract. Picture: AAP/Brendon Thorne
Addin Fonua-Blake signed with the Warriors on an inflated contract. Picture: AAP/Brendon Thorne

 

Yet that is effectively what some managers are forcing their players, some unwittingly, to do now.

And the manager, who with some irony negotiated and recommended the deal he now urges his client to break, not only pays no price but, in fact, gets a pay rise on commission for the upgraded deal.

As the new Warriors coach, Nathan Brown, said earlier this year on NRL360: "You can't do a good deal anymore."

Brown said part of the art of managing the salary cap is signing a player for $300,000 and trying to get $400,000 of value out of him.

Now, he said, the moment a player begins playing well he is back arguing for an upgrade or, more frequently, being shopped around for a bigger deal at rival clubs.

 

 

 

The moment a bigger deal is landed the player asks to be released, usually citing ­"family reasons".

Not that Brown can complain too much.

Shortly after signing at the Warriors the club, realising it needed a tough middle forward, put an offer to Addin Fonua-Blake even though he still had two seasons left at Manly.

On cue, Fonua-Blake claimed "family reasons" and was granted a release.

The Sea Eagles tried to go down this road once before when Blake Green was offered a significant upgrade at the Warriors with a season still left at Manly.

 

 

The Sea Eagles needed only a few weeks watching him kick stones around at training to realise the cause was lost and Green was gone.

Manly was too smart this time around, though.

The Tigers are convinced that Fonua-Blake was released at Manly only on the condition his manager found an adequate replacement.

Soon after, it was reported Josh Aloiai was unhappy at the Tigers and seeking a release. Lo and behold, Manly emerged as a viable option.

It might be only a ­coincidence Aloiai is managed by the same agent as Fonua-Blake.

Originally published as Kent: Days of players holding clubs to ransom are over



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