The old question, “What price loyalty?”, is getting kicked around again, with Kieran Foran’s mooted return to Australia after a one-season stint with the Warriors, and Aaron Woods and James Tedesco talking to the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Tigers have already retained Luke Brooks, while Mitchell Moses is off to the Eels, although there’s talk the Tigers want him to renege.
For clubs, players are disposable commodities. For players, their talent is a bargaining chip to be used.
The Titans signed Daly Cherry-Evans, then Cherry-Evans reneged and stayed with Manly.
The Titans picked up James Roberts when no-one else wanted the bad boy with prodigious talent but lots of baggage. There was self-interest involved, the lowly Titans struggled to sign anyone, but coach Neil Henry got Roberts playing consistent football for the first time in the troubled centre’s life.
Roberts repaid the Titans by using a contract stuff-up as an excuse to go to the Broncos.
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Last season Parramatta were shaping as premiership contenders until Foran’s personal problems saw him off the field and out of the Eels.
Similar to the Titans and Roberts, the Warriors acted out of a degree of self-interest in signing Foran, but giving him a chance at redemption was also a financial and figurative risk.
His repayment? He’ll almost certainly be back in Sydney next year, to be close to his children. Understandable, but if that’s been the plan, why not just sit the season out, instead of using the Warriors as a convenience?
Eels fans would have been happy to see him on the sidelines.
Most players understand money, which leads to the greater problem beyond loyalty.
Doctors such as George Peponis and Nathan Gibbs aren’t playing rugby league now. Players are signed virtually from the cradle and the demands of the modern game mean there can’t be concurrent academic pursuits. Most players have never had a fulltime job while playing.
What work-and-contract ethics will they have when the boots are hung up?
The clubs have been playing catch-up real-world training for seasons.
The tennis world example is instructive, and not because of the on-court antics of a Nick Kyrgios or Bernard Tomic. Talk to volunteers and they have tales of touring professionals, not just the big names, being the rudest group they’ve met.
Tales of no manners and demands for planes, cars and buses because the players live in a bubble, with no concept of a world outside the court.
There is a lesson there.