I’m not one to cry ‘fake news’ when a narrative doesn’t suit my purpose, but I get more than a little steamed up when demonstrably false statements are used to put down a struggling organisation.
Now, I couldn’t tell you why Adam Reynolds decided to sign with the Broncos over the Sharks.
Cronulla were reportedly offering more money and gave Reynolds and his young family the opportunity to stay put in Sydney, yet the boy from Redfern has decided his future is in Brisbane.
It could be that the lifestyle on offer in the Queensland capital was worth investigating for a few years.
It could be that the chance to help rebuild one of Australian sport’s great brands – apparently while wearing the captain’s armband – was a more appealing challenge than working with a club that hasn’t missed the finals since 2014 (even if that streak will surely be broken this year).
Or it could be that the Sharks totally botched their pitch, as Paul Kent proposed in a column last week.
Kent outlined how Cronulla low-balled their number one recruitment target, leaving Reynolds “wondering how much the Sharks really wanted him”, allowing Brisbane the opportunity to usurp them.
“The greatest asset a club can have is someone who can get the deal done,” was the conclusion Kent reached.
Probably a fair assessment. However, Kent illustrated his point with what he called “the Daly Cherry-Evans Rule”.
The way you get a deal done, according to Kent, was shown by Manly back in 2015, when the club had seemingly lost their premiership-winning halfback to the Gold Coast until, in Kent’s words, “he pulled out of the deal to join Gold Coast when the NRL allowed a two-week cooling off period to stay with Manly”.
“As the Titans proudly proclaimed the Cherry-Evans signature a turning point at the club, Manly went away knowing they had two weeks to change his mind,” Kent wrote.
“Bob Fulton was leading the cavalry.
“Fulton is one of the game’s great deal-makers, he would fight Nick Politis for the heavyweight championship, and mostly because he knows when to play polite and when not to.
“With a strict two-week time period put on convincing Cherry-Evans to backflip, Fulton sat down with Manly powerbrokers and Cherry-Evans’ management to find out what was needed to make Cherry-Evans stay.”
It’s a great story. Rugby league Immortal and apparent deal-making superstar Bob ‘Bozo’ Fulton gets together with DCE’s representatives and in the course of a fortnight pulls together an offer that convinces the Queenslander to stay in NSW.
Shame it’s bullshit.
Here’s what really happened.
On Friday, March 6 2015, the Titans released a statement announcing that “Daly Cherry Evans (sic) has agreed to four-year deal to become a Gold Coast Titan from 2016”.
The month of March passed. Then April. Then May.
And finally, on Wednesday, June 3 2015, Manly came out with a statement that began, “Daly Cherry Evans (sic) today announced that he will be a Sea Eagle for life.”
(Does no one at either of these clubs realise Daly has a double-barrelled surname – like, they are aware that Cherry isn’t his middle name, right?)
That’s 12 weeks and five days between Cherry-Evans signing with the Titans and then deciding he’d rather stick around at the Sea Eagles.
“One of the game’s great deal-makers” headed up negotiations and Manly still needed a quarter of a year to convince their one-club halfback to stick around – more than six times longer than the “strict two-week time period” Kent gave as a timeline.
Of course, that’s not strictly true either. You see, Fulton wasn’t even working at Manly when Cherry-Evans signed with the Titans, nor in the fortnight that followed. His role as ‘Strategic Football Consultant’ at the Sea Eagles was announced on April 14 2015 – more than six weeks after the Gold Coast trumpeted their signing.
Kent went on, writing how he had contacted the Titans “about this time” to ask “what was planned to convince Cherry-Evans to honour the deal after Manly had got to him”.
About which time would that be? In the two weeks following the Titans’ March declaration, or at any point in the subsequent ten weeks that followed?
Surely it was before June 2, because on that particular date then NRL head of football Todd Greenberg announced the game was set to instigate a ten-day cooling off period.
See, prior to that, a player who had signed with a different club had until Round 13 to decide if they wanted to go through with the switch.
And guess when Round 13 started in 2015? June 5.
Bozo wasn’t operating off a two-week period to get a deal done – firstly he wasn’t even at the joint in that time period, and secondly that cooling-off period was created in response to the DCE backflip.
No, Manly had 90 days to get a deal across the line and they needed 89 of them. As for Fulton’s involvement, more than seven weeks elapsed between him joining the club and DCE recommitting his future there.
At this point, it’s worth going a little deeper on the deal Manly got done.
Cherry-Evans signed with the Gold Coast for four years with a reported pay packet of $1 million a season. The contract Manly produced was twice that length and worth more than double the money.
As for the exact amount each year of the contract was worth, that is up for speculation, because the NRL wants to have us believe the salary cap is fair and equitable but don’t walk the walk by making each player’s salary public.
The generally agreed-upon amount is that DCE got $10 million over eight seasons, or $1.25 million per year.
However, in 2018 the Sea Eagles were slapped with a $750,000 fine and had a $660,000 penalty applied to their salary cap across seasons 2018-19 for breaching the cap.
“Manly had a financial advantage in securing the services of players who may otherwise have gone to other clubs,” then NRL chief executive officer Greenberg said.
Securing the services of players who may otherwise have gone to other clubs.
Guess who one of those players was?
Well, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, “The NRL found the Sea Eagles had promised undisclosed player payments totalling $1.5m to 13 players over five years and it’s understood ‘DCE’ was the biggest beneficiary.”
Phil Rothfield said on NRL 360 that the total overs for Cherry-Evans was “$400,000 in his contract that wasn’t part of the salary cap”.
The fallout for the club went deeper than just financial penalties too. On a personnel level, according to NRL.com, “two officials – chief operating officer Neil Bare and former CEO Joe Kelly, who is now the boss at the Sydney Roosters – received 12-month bans, while Fulton will need NRL approval to take up any official role in the game again.”
For the record, Fulton had resigned from the Sea Eagles in October 2017, with Andrew Webster writing the move “raised suspicions that he didn’t want to front the integrity unit and answer any hard questions”.
Futhermore, Kelly was the former CEO because he reportedly refused to sign off on the DCE deal, with Rothfield saying, “Joe Kelly actually resigned over it. He said ‘I’m not touching this’.”
So the sum total of the deal that convinced DCE to backflip on the Titans was that it took three months to put together, required the club to hire a recruitment officer who still needed two months of work to get a signature, was twice as long as the competing bid, was worth an extra $300,000 – that’s a whopping 30 per cent more – per year (give or take), and was shady to the point that it saw the club CEO resign, helped see said CEO and another executive get banned from their jobs for a year each, while the man who was “leading the cavalry” to get the deal done is now persona non grata.
Is, um, is that “the Daly Cherry-Evans Rule”?
If so, let’s apply it to Adam Reynolds.
Cronulla needed to offer a six-year deal worth approximately $1 million a season – including extras that are off the books – and they’ve still got more than two months to get it done, during which time they’ll hire a club legend to help them get it over the line.
Oh, and three people, including said club legend, will eventually lose their jobs over it.
That’s pretty much comparable to what saw DCE stay at the Sea Eagles.
Ultimately, this is all cold comfort to the Sharks, who haven’t landed the premiership-winning halfback they need to help rebuild a club in shambles.
But to say Cronulla could learn a lesson in deal-making based on how Bob Fulton got Daly Cherry-Evans to stay at Manly is a total crock.