The silly season has started, which means players who are un-contracted or in the last year of their contract have the opportunity to look elsewhere for a better deal.
There are many such players, but there is only one potential superstar whose manoeuvrings in the last few weeks have captured the headlines.
You would have thought that Latrell Mitchell at the age of 22 has had a dream run. Two premierships, two State of Origin wins and successful international appearances.
He’s been offered and reportedly baulked an extension to his Roosters contract at $800,000 per year. By not accepting it and telling the team that he wants to test the market, the Roosters have withdrawn their offer. He is still under contract for 2020 but has nothing after that.
Mitchell has decided he just doesn’t want to be the highest paid centre in the NRL. He wants another club that will pay him more.
At this stage the number of clubs having space in their salary cap to fit Latrell seems to have shrunk to two possibilities: Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys.
So the dream run is tottering. If he can find a suitor to meet his price, all will be well and the dream will continue.
But if he can’t, what then? Back to the Roosters shamefaced and then look to next year. Not a good look.
Latrell had some problems last year. They were that:
It seems to me that at 22 and not yet mature enough at the game he should have taken the Rooster offer and waited until it expired before seeking to be one of the top players in the NRL.
Providing there is no career-ending injury, two or three years playing alongside the star-studded Rooster team can only be good for him and his development. Now he is in the top-ten players in that team. There is no great expectation that he needs to be the best. If he goes to a lower-ranked team at $1 million per year, he will be expected to carry the team on his shoulders. If he can’t, he will be rich but unsuccessful and his future in two or three years will not be assured.
Money is very important in the professional world of rugby league but longevity is vital. I am concerned that a wrong step now will damage his future and his self-esteem and prevent him from attaining true superstar status.