Five reasons why the Roosters won’t be over the cap in 2018

The Barry Roar Guru

By The Barry, The Barry is a Roar Guru

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    Let me make something clear from the outset. It feels absurd to be defending the Roosters.

    As a Bulldogs fan that grew up, went to school and played junior league in the Eastern Suburbs I’ve always had a special bit of enmity for the red, white and blue-sters.

    The Bulldogs played the Roosters in the first grand final I fully remember watching in 1980. I felt like the lone Bulldog supporter in the East as grand final fever gripped the suburbs.

    The rivalry peaked in the early 2000s when the Roosters won the comp that the Bulldogs ‘should’ have won if not for their flagrant rorting of the 2002 salary cap.

    Then there were the ‘grand final that should have been’ games through 2003. The Dogs got the early points in round nine with Brent Sherwin masterfully setting up the match winner for Matt Utai. The Roosters won the biggest game that season though defeating the Dogs 28-18 in the preliminary final.

    The Dogs got their revenge in the 2004 grand final, which had a particularly ferocious build up.

    Then in the mid 2000s the Roosters plundered the Bulldogs line-up signing premiership winners Willie Mason, Braith Anasta, Mark O’Meley and future Origin and test star Nate Myles in quick succession.

    The point is, I’m not an apologist for the Roosters. They’re a team that I fluctuate between loving to hate and just hating.

    As footy fans we all lead with our heart but even allowing for that there’s a hell of a lot of innuendo and invective (much of it factually incorrect) floating around at the moment that’s becoming a self fulfilling feeding frenzy that the Roosters are destroying the 2018 salary cap.

    So I’m gritting my teeth, putting 37 years of rivalry aside and coming up with five reasons why I don’t think the Roosters are over the cap in 2018.

    1. The cap has increased by $2.4M
    The salary cap has increased from $7M in 2017 to $9.4M in 2018. The 2018 base salary cap will be $9.1M with a $100K car allowance and a $200K veteran/development player allowance.

    Basically, that’s Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco right there, with change.

    It’s not that simple, of course as clubs have been anticipating a big increase and have been back ending contracts and building salary increases to reflect the cap into contracts.

    We do know that some clubs (looking at you Bulldogs) have handled this process poorly. Is there a chance, just a chance that the Roosters have seen this coming and managed the situation well, rather than just resorting to cheating?

    Either way a $2.4M increase in the salary cap is by far the largest increase in the NRL’s history. To put it In perspective the last time the cap increased by $2.4M took five years from 2012 ($4.4M) to 2017 ($7M).

    Prior to 2012 it took 14 years for the cap to increase by $1.15M from $3.25M in 1998.
    This is a gigantic leap forward in player spend and it’s not surprising to me that there are clubs that have money to spend on players and not surprising at all that one of those clubs is arguably the most professionally run rugby league club in the country.

    2. The players they’ve let go
    I read the other day that the Roosters had “swapped Kenny-Dowall and Pearce for Tedesco and Cronk, how is that fair?” Of course it wouldn’t be but it’s just not true.

    Among the players the Roosters have let go for 2018 are 21-Test player Shaun Kenny-Dowall, NSW’s most capped Origin halfback Mitchell Pearce, Test and ten Origin player Aiden Guerra, former Origin player Michael Gordon, rising star Connor Watson and experienced forward Kane Evans.

    I’ve deliberately talked up their CVs to suit my argument. None of the veterans are at the top of their game but they would all have still been on decent money as part of their most recent contracts. No doubt Pearce would still have been on very good money. That’s six top 17 regulars released in one season.

    That’s a massive turnover. I’d estimate the combined minimum these players would be receiving would be $2M.

    Mitchell Pearce Sydney Roosters NRL Rugby League Finals 2017

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    The Roosters have also let Liam Knight and Paul Carter leave the club, although neither of those guys will be troubling the accountants.

    When you put this $2M on top of the $2.4M salary cap increase, I don’t understand why people are so immediate to jump to rorting to explain the signatures of Tedesco and Cronk.

    The Roosters other signings for 2018 are Joshua Curran, Dean Matterson and Reece Robinson.

    3. The rest of the Roosters squad
    There’s a lot of focus on the top end of the Roosters squad – not so much on the other end. The Roosters have a lot of big names at the big end but they have a long tail too.

    Among the Cronks, Tedescos, Friends, Cordners and JWHs is a long list of players either yet to play NRL or yet to establish themselves.

    Among the Roosters top 30 squad for next year are Nat Butcher, Lindsay Collins, Mitch Cornish, Poasa Faamausili, Brendan Frei, Grant Garvey, Joseph Manu, Dean Matterson, Paul Momirovski, Sean O’Sullivan, Victor Radley and Chris Smith.

    That’s a lot of players in a 30 man squad with minimal experience and more importantly soaking up minimal salary cap spend. Most of those players will be on the NRL minimum of $120,000.

    After releasing the players listed above, the experience level in the Roosters squad drops off steeply outside the top 17 players. Even a normal distribution of injuries, suspensions and rep duties will see the Roosters fielding a lot of rookies.

    If they have an injury crisis, they will be leaning heavily on untested players.

    4. Angus Crichton hasn’t signed on until 2019
    “This is getting ridiculous how can they sign Tedesco, Cronk and now Crichton and still be under the cap?”

    That was something else I read this week but again it’s completely non-factual and emotional. At this stage Crichton won’t be playing for the Roosters until 2019. He just doesn’t come into consideration for the 2018 cap.

    Here’s the kicker though…given all of the above, if Souths make the mad decision to release Crichton I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Roosters had room to fit him into their 2018 cap, possibly on a back ended deal.

    5. The Roosters do good business
    Love them or hate them, you can’t deny the Roosters are one of the most professionally run sporting organisations in the country. They went through some tough times from the mid 80s to the mid 90s. Since then, they’ve been one of the most consistent and successful teams in the competition. That doesn’t happen by accident.

    I always think the mark of a good club is how they cope with hard times. Poorly run clubs go into a 20 year tail spin and complain about TPAs, free-to-airs, junior concessions, scheduling, etc, etc and point the finger at anyone or anything in range as to why they’ve gone down the gurgler, simultaneously lurching from one disaster to the next.

    Boyd Cordner Sydney Roosters NRL Rugby League 2017

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Then there are clubs who when they are down, close ranks, keep quiet and make the hard decisions. For these clubs tough times don’t tend to last more than a season or two. The Roosters are definitely in the latter group.

    Other clubs fans like to speak of Uncle Nick and his mythical brown paper bags, but he’s a long standing successful businessman inside and outside of sport. He’s set up a club that attracts high profile, successful businessmen to it.

    How many ex-players do you see running the Roosters on the basis that they’re favourite sons? Not many. The Roosters get players to play and businessmen to do business. The rest of us point to their success and say “they’ve got to be cheating…”

    It’s poor sportsmanship to the point of grubbiness.

    Having said all of the above…who really knows? When the Storm got busted it was only hindsight that made it obvious. At the time, the narrative was about how many quality players the Storm were shedding year on year to stay under the cap.

    No one saw the Bulldogs cap scandal coming.

    But on balance I think there’s far more evidence that the Roosters are under the cap for 2018 than smashing it to pieces as the common narrative would have us believe.

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    The Crowd Says (54)

    • December 22nd 2017 @ 7:16am
      Stephen Vagg said | December 22nd 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      This is a really, good smart piece.

    • December 22nd 2017 @ 7:25am
      Greg Ambrose said | December 22nd 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      A well put together article TB , my response was going to be along the lines of your last few paragraphs.

      One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how many of Manly’s so called star juniors they have signed. It seems just about anyone who is rated very highly disappears to the Roosters with the obvious exceptions being the Turbo brothers. Apart from JWH they have largely failed luckily.

      I have the feeling despite your well researched article that you could have done the same thing with the Storm, Dogs and Eels before they were caught but I agree that there is no evidence at all that the Roosters are doing anything wrong and it is plausible that they are just managing their affairs better than the others.

      The fact that the clubs are audited means very little as history has shown.

      Funny thing with Manly is we no longer are paying Matai and Stewart this year but we still are apparently in trouble with the cap despite everyone saying we have poor depth. If the Roosters still have money to spend despite being title favorites ( I believe ) then they are doing a clever job.

    • December 22nd 2017 @ 7:36am
      Mike L said | December 22nd 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      As much as I hate the Roosters, you cant help but admire the ruthless way they operate their salary cap. They think nothing of removing established stars such as Kenny Dowell/Guerra and even Pearce in their pursuit of success.
      Despite the odd year where they finish outside the eight, they are always in your picks for the top 8 at the start of the year.
      Man I hate the Roosters…

      • December 22nd 2017 @ 8:03am
        Not so super said | December 22nd 2017 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        SKD a star? Guerra was once

    • December 22nd 2017 @ 7:57am
      Peeko said | December 22nd 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      grand final that should have been’

      No it wasn’t

      I hear the players they let go all the time and knight, carter, Gordon, skd and Watson would have been on below average salaries. They need to be replaced by an equal number of players

      It looks like the roosters have done two things
      – replaced them with a few stars and a bunch of guys on minimum wage
      – many guys didn’t have the salary cap increase written into their contract – therefore they have a lot Guys like Liu, Aubusson, SST on less than players of similar ability at other clubs

      They don’t have a deep squad at all and are susceptible to injuries. That is unless there is some real talent in their cheap guys that the they raided from other areas as 15yo and this they count as local juniors

      Would this club please change its name back to Easts? They don’t represent Sydney, they represent that little corner where the people think the world is centered, you can’t watch league in a pub and the swans are big news

    • December 22nd 2017 @ 8:04am
      JohnnoMcJohnno said | December 22nd 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Not convinced. This is the club that also said they wanted Pearce to stay and could fit him under the cap. The cap is the cap but it always seems like a magic pudding cap with the Roosters.

    • December 22nd 2017 @ 8:23am
      Peter Phelps said | December 22nd 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      One telling comment in this piece is the Roosters depth. Basically any injuries to the big boys and the chucks are stuffed.

      • December 22nd 2017 @ 9:11am
        Kenw said | December 22nd 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

        That’s basically the successful Storm model. Their salary cap dramas left them with a hugely top heavy player structure, a handful of out-and-out superstars, supplemented by value picks (who of course play better alongside the superstars). Melbourne have had plenty of time to adjust of course, but why would they when they’ve won 2 comps since then and been competitive every other year.

        Wouldn’t blame the Roosters if they looked at the Storm and thought it was a risk worth taking.

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