By Craig Bellamy, The Australian
It seems more of a “silly season” than normal this year with the amount of player trading and movement that is happening so early in a new season.
Every year it seems to be happening more and more that players decide very early they will be leaving their club at the end of the season. We are used to seeing players leave clubs through the year, but that mainly happens when clubs are trying to move them on to fit into their future plans. So I’m not being critical of players as it is a two-way street.
But it feels like the values people used to live by in footy are being eroded.
Case in point is the upheaval at the Wests Tigers. Jason Taylor was sacked and now Ivan Cleary has been given the job. I don’t think anyone was surprised with that transition but I think everyone was surprised it happened after round three. If that was the right decision, why wasn’t it done last year as opposed to so early this season especially after winning one game in three?
The restlessness is being put down to the so-called ‘big four’ of key players all coming off contract at the same time. I know some rugby league people of my era have been a little critical of Mitchell Moses, one of that quartet.
I don’t know all the ins and outs for why he wants to leave the Tigers after deciding to sign with Parramatta next year. We older stagers have trouble with that. If there are more adequate reasons why he wants to cut ties right now, I’ve not heard them.
I’m hearing the club is thinking of letting him go and that really surprises me. Firstly, Mitchell has a contract until the end of 2017 so he should see it out.
Again, I realise clubs try to shift players around and throw guys out to suit the club’s needs. But why is there a need to let a quality player like Mitchell go so early?
All this talk of Mitchell asking for a release came before his performance against North Queensland last week. He is certainly very important to the Tigers team. When he plays well, the whole team gets a big kick off the back of that. Mitchell helped turn the Tigers form right around.
So that tells me he is not that disenchanted with the club that he still can’t play decent footy. Players today, yesterday, and going back years, have a lot of personal pride in their performance and Mitchell certainly showed that on Saturday night.
Yet here we have some in the hierarchy of the Tigers club knowing that he can perform like that but they still are willing to let him go. For me, if the Tigers do let him go it’s like they are throwing up their hands and saying ‘We can’t do too much this year’. That seems a ridiculous thing to say in round seven. We are not even a third of the way through the season.
The rumours might not be right that he will play against Parramatta on Easter Monday and then join them a few days later.
The reality is if he is released, then the Tigers are not going to get a player of that quality to replace him. They may get someone next year and may have that plan already in place. But that still sends the message that this year is gone, so they’ll worry about next year. I just don’t understand that.
We all have tough years but you don’t give up. You still try to do the very best you can and you always know players have got that in-built pride. We saw that in Townsville, the Tigers showed real grit to hang in there defensively.
It’s not round 20 with the Tigers four wins out of the top eight. They’ve played six matches and had two wins, they are not out of the running.
At Melbourne Storm we know Jordan McLean is going to the Cowboys next year and Tohu Harris is leaving us for the Warriors in October. Tohu hasn’t played yet because of injury and Jordan has had his troubles in that area too.
But when Jordan has played he’s played very well for us because he knows he will be treated equally with anyone else here. He has his personal pride but if for some reason he did become distracted, like anyone else he would get a couple of games in reserve grade. Amazing how players find their form again when that happens.
Ivan Cleary used the term of wanting his players to “jump on the bus”. Well Mitchell Moses did that last week so why won’t he stay on the bus for the next 19 rounds and do the best he can for the Tigers even though he’s leaving next year?
Its just the right thing to do – finish your contract. I don’t want to be critical of Mitchell and I know I’ve singled him out. But I fear his situation is going to become more frequent. The only benefit for the Tigers as I see it is they don’t have to pay him for the next six months. But they seem to have room already under the cap so why let one of your best players go early?
I would like to see a transfer window. But I haven’t thought about it enough to give you an idea of how that would, or should, work. A draft is another option I’d be keen to see but again that has its issues.
Players knowing where they are going up to a year beforehand, is not a good look for our fans. I know the current system has been a part of the NRL for a long time now so the game’s senior officials and the hierarchy at clubs obviously like it.
Craig Bellamy is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.