You can forgive Parramatta fans for needing a little more reassurance than the average rugby league supporter. The club has almost signed more players over the last two years than just about any other.
Earlier this week, the Eels announced the capture of Redcliffe born product Corey Norman from Brisbane, but the press release came with a cuddle and a pat on the back for those who no longer believe anything until they see it.
“I understand that under the NRL rules I have until round 13 to change my mind, but I just wanted Eels members, fans and sponsors to know that I will be standing 100% by my decision to make the move to Sydney,” Norman said.
“I have made a commitment by signing a contract and I will see that commitment and contract through.”
Now, they’re nice words, but they’ll mean absolutely nothing to the Eels faithful who’ve been burnt many times before.
On February 22, the club confirmed they’d signed Canberra forward Josh Papalii to a three year deal.
“Heading to Parramatta next season is a new and exciting challenge,” Papalii said.
“They are a club on the rise and I am looking forward to being a part of what Ricky Stuart and the team up there are doing.”
Just weeks later, the 20-year-old decided that he wasn’t quite looking forward to what Ricky Stuart and the team were doing and decided instead to stay in Canberra.
Now, apart from offending everyone of a blue and gold persuasion, Papalii did nothing wrong.
Players know they have until round 13 to change their minds.
Still, it’s an uncomfortable reality for rugby league fans.
It has gone too far when a player has to actually promise to show up at a club he has signed for just hours after putting pen to paper.
The NRL needs to remove this loophole because it paints the player and the league in a bad light.
That’s not to say players should have a restricted ‘transfer window’ like opportunity to move. In fact, quite the opposite.
Let them move whenever they want. Let them move years before, like James Maloney, or just days ahead of the new season.
It doesn’t really matter.
It’s just important that people can be taken at their word.
It’s sad when a signature on a contract means absolutely nothing.
It’s even more worrying when a player like Norman has to re-assure supporters of his new club that, come pre-season, he’ll actually be there.
The players are being painted as the bad guys at the moment, but they aren’t. They’re only playing by the rules handed down by head office.
It’s time the rule was changed.