NRL silly season ramped up this week, with Ryan Matterson signing with the Eels, while Latrell Mitchell has gone from the game’s hottest commodity to the kid apparently no-one wants.
Parramatta chief executive Bernie Gurr insists Semi Radradra is in the NRL to stay, but admits it’s not ideal the star winger will face court over domestic violence charges weeks before the 2017 season starts.
Hours after surrendering his passport on Wednesday in a Sydney court, Radradra was on his way to a training camp on the NSW central coast.
The 24-year-old arrived back in Australia on Tuesday night to a storm and confusion about his future, after French rugby powerhouse Toulon claimed to have secured his signature for the 2017-18 Top 14 season.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal on Monday insisted Radradra’s move was sealed after he signed a one-year contract with an optional second season.
Gurr said Radradra’s manager George Christodoulou had “definitively” denied the deal was done or even verbally committed to, saying Toulon had “jumped the gun” in declaring the signature.
He found it “justifiable” that Christodoulou would enquire about back-up alternatives in the scenario his client was expelled from the NRL by the game’s integrity unit.
But the Eels intend to hold their prized winger to his contract, which doesn’t expire until the end of the 2017 season.
“His manager has been honest with us and we have no reason to question what he’s told us,” said Gurr, who said the Eels were in preliminary negotiations about securing Radradra’s signature long term, pending a verdict on his charges.
“My understanding is that Semi’s preference is to stay in the NRL.”
Radradra also faced arrest after his failure to appear at Parramatta Local Court on Monday to answer three charges of domestic violence brought by his former partner Perina Ting.
Radradra, who denies the allegations, had flown to Fiji to visit his sick father, angering the magistrate sufficiently to threaten him with an arrest warrant.
When he finally fronted on Wednesday morning, his lawyer was able to convince the magistrate to revoke the warrant, but he was forced to hand over his passport and would not be allowed to leave Australia before his hearing on February 13.
While refusing to comment on legal proceedings, Gurr did concede the timing of Radradra’s hearing was inconvenient given it was set down only a couple of weeks before the season starts.
“Ideally, the thing would have been wrapped up on Monday,” Gurr said.
“Now that it’s been put back to February, we’re just going to deal with that – you deal with the cards you’re played – we can’t control anything else.
“It’s not ideal, but I don’t think it’s going to disrupt the team’s preparation.
“We’re merely going through this in steps.
“Step one was to get in consultation with his manager, to get Semi back in the country and then to fulfil his obligation to turn up in court today.
“That’s been done – the result is satisfactory at this stage … now they can have plenty of time to prepare for the legal case in February.”
Gurr had not spoken to Radradra but said the player understood the seriousness of his legal situation.