Josh Addo-Carr’s being allowed to stray, Jarome Luai can pledge his future for 2025 elsewhere next week and Ryan Papenhuyzen is dealing with a phantom menace.
The NRL silly season is downright stupid.
After all the argy-bargy, bluff and bluster of the NRL vs RLPA saga over the CBA negotiations, the lunacy of the November 1 system has remained.
That means Luai and any other NRL player off contract after the end of next season can, as of next Wednesday, sign a deal at one of the other 16 clubs a full 12 months before reporting for pre-season duty and another four months before playing a meaningful match for a prospective new club.
The NRL wanted trade windows but the RLPA pushed back and in the end the system started to resemble a camel despite the intentions of the respective committees trying to design a horse.
In one of the few concessions made after all those hours at the negotiating table is that players now can’t hold transfer discussions with other clubs before November rolls around.
Previously, clubs could talk to agents about deals but not sign one until the clock struck midnight on Halloween.
The NRL is now waving around a big stick to say there will be harsh sanctions for anyone found guilty of breaching the deadline to chat about deals.
That will be almost impossible to monitor.
What will be just as hard to stop is all the speculation over player movements which is the oxygen that fuels the NRL news cycle all year long, particularly at times like now when the last fleeting moments for the year are playing out with the Pacific Championships.
Despite what many pub experts like to think, stories like Canterbury being open to offers for Addo-Carr and Papenhuyzen’s tenure at the Storm being less than rock solid aren’t just plucked out of thin air by reporters.
There is no honour among thieves and no trust when it comes to the parties negotiating deals in the rugby league maelstrom.
Spoiler alert (which shouldn’t be required for a movie that old) but when NRL contract negotiations get leaked to the media, the CEOs, coaches and player agents end up replicating the standoff scene from Reservoir Dogs.
And it doesn’t end well for anyone concerned.
Canterbury clearly need to bolster their pack after the departures of Tevita Pangai jnr to boxing, Luke Thompson, Franklin Pele and Jayden Okunbor to the Super League, Corey Waddell to Manly, and club captain Raymond Faitala-Mariner being told he can leave despite having two years on his deal after he had a run-in with coach Cameron Ciraldo over the club’s intense training methods and hardline punishments for stepping out of line.
What the Dogs don’t particularly need is a high-priced winger who is quite frankly going to waste on the end of a misfiring attacking unit.
And Addo-Carr has left himself open to speculation about his future by brawling at the Koori Knockout, admitting to playing after being concussed on a podcast and making ill-considered social media posts.
If he is lining up for the Dogs in Round 1 it will only be because the Bulldogs couldn’t strike a suitable deal to offload his contract while simultaneously replacing his salary cap chunk with a big bopper who can give them some bite up front.
It’s no surprise that Addo-Carr is in high demand even though he’s tarnished his value on the back of his two-game ban from the Koori Knockout brawl which cost the 27-year-old his place in the Kangaroos squad in the Pacific Championships.
He would be perfect for Parramatta.
If the Eels are any chance of prying open the premiership window which looks to be closing on the back of their plummet from runners-up to 10th, they need attacking firepower out wide.
Maika Sivo gives them that on one flank but the rest of their centres, wingers and fullback Clint Gutherson are solid finishers without being spectacular scoring threats.
The Foxx can be just that for them.
Parra have little salary cap room and you could see why Ryan Matterson could be jettisoned as he is on big dollars but hasn’t been making an impact that justifies his price tag over the past season.
As an aside, Wests Tigers fans would get a rare reason to smile if Matterson is pushed out of a contract early after he broke a deal with them to engineer a switch to Parra.
Addo-Carr would be a long shot to head to Newcastle even though they have a Dominic Young-sized hole to fill on their flank while the Dragons can’t be ruled out.
New coach Shane Flanagan is eager to land his first major signing in the hope it will create a domino effect like when he convinced Luke Lewis to become a Shark when the Test star was on the way out of Penrith more than a decade ago.
And in what can only be described as an on brand move, the Tigers are holding out a paw for Addo-Carr to return to the club after they let him walk as a rookie to become a star at the Storm.
Coincidentally, or perhaps it’s not a coincidence at all when you think about how the club has been run, Papenhuyzen also started out as a Wests Tiger and he would be a game-changer if they could convince him to come back.
The only problem is the Storm have poo-pooed suggestions they have, would or will consider releasing him from his deal in light of his wretched run with injuries.
Poor old Papi has also spoken out to say he will prove wrong whichever go-between third party stooge tried to get word out that the Storm would not stand in his way if he wanted to leave so they could clear the runway for prodigiously talented rookie Sua Fa’alogo to inherit the No.1 jersey.
Luai is the other star in the spotlight at the moment over his playing future and for once the Penrith star is keeping quiet while he figures out whether to take the best offer he can get from the club where he’s won three premierships or get more zeroes elsewhere for 2025 and beyond.
The Panthers’ best offer looks like it will be well shy of what teams like the Tigers, Dragons, Raiders and others will send Luai’s way.
Luai has his fair share of critics but it can’t be denied that he’s a very good playmaker in a market where there’s very few available.
The market will dictate what he’s worth and, as was the case five years ago with St George Illawarra blowing their rival bidders out of the water to sign Ben Hunt, it only takes one team’s offer to dramatically shift the landscape.
But the fact that players and teams are allowed and forced to operate in a system where these decisions are made so far out from when they’ll actually take place is the problem.
Luai could have the best or worst year of his career next season, drastically changing his value but he and his prospective bosses are in a situation where they have to speculate on what he will be worth.
Which of course will lead to even more speculation in the media with everyone involved side-eyeing each other with suspicion.