Crawley: How to fix lack of loyalty towards contracts
THE NRL's transfer madness has gone too far. The ridiculous amount of mid-season player movements must stop, and there's a solution to ensure contracts are honoured, writes Paul Crawley.
You're sitting with your best mate, you've both cracked open a beer, and he's filling you in on all the comings and goings.
Your mate starts off by telling you: "Well, this week Tim Mannah left Parramatta and is now at the Wests Tigers. But Ivan Cleary is not coaching the Tigers anymore, he's back at Penrith."
But hang on, you say, what happened to Ivan driving the Wests Tigers bus?
"Nope, Michael Maguire is coaching the Tigers now."
But didn't South Sydney say Maguire had a job for life after he won the comp?
"Yeah, well, Wayne Bennett is now coaching Souths because he got sacked at Brisbane to make way for Anthony Seibold."
"Oh, Seibold is the bloke who came in to replace Maguire at the Rabbitohs for one year … meanwhile, Seibold has released Kodi Nikorima and he's at the Warriors to replace
But where's Johnson?
"He's at Cronulla. So is Matt Moylan. Did I mention Mitchell Pearce is at Newcastle because the Roosters bought Cooper Cronk?
"Oh, and David Klemmer is also at the Knights because he wanted out of the Dogs. But don't worry, Dylan Napa replaced Klemmer at the Dogs. And Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is also at Canterbury.
"But did you hear the latest?"
No, you say.
"Well, now Dane Gagai apparently wants to go to Gold Coast because James Roberts took the centre spot Greg Inglis left vacant when he retired, and the Titans have a spot open because Tyrone Peachey appears to be moving back to Penrith."
Fair dinkum, your head would be spinning.
And we haven't even gone close to mentioning all the player and coaching movements.
You can't tell me all this is good for the game.
Make no mistake, the biggest problem in the NRL right now is not player behaviour or clubs cheating the salary cap, it is this awful lack of loyalty and honour.
Any player, or coach for that matter, can have a tantrum on any given day and want out of his contract. And what's worse, no one hardly bats an eyelid.
He just goes and finds another club and usually ends up being paid more than he was previously.
Plenty of people have a bad day at work - but they don't just up and quit when the going gets tough.
Because most people understand their responsibilities, and that well-paid jobs, even poorly paid jobs, are not easy to come by.
Or alternatively, a club can sack a player who is under contract and it is called business.
Meanwhile, the game, and especially the rusted-on fans, suffer enormously.
But I believe there is no one in power with enough gumption to stand up and say enough is enough because they are too scared to take on the players, coaches, clubs and especially player-agents feeding this frenzy.
People are signing longer deals than ever before, yet these contracts aren't worth the paper they are printed on.
Last October, Waqa Blake signed a five-year extension that was supposed to keep him at Penrith until the end of 2023. Yet apparently Blake is now on the outer after Cleary's return.
But what would happen if the NRL actually drew a line in the sand and started making everyone honour the deals they have signed?
Would the game be worse off, or better for it?
So-called smart people have been discussing the possibility of introducing a transfer window to potentially fix the problem.
For mine, the only answer is to limit player and coaching movements to the off-season, and make no exceptions.
If a player wants out of a contract he can do so, but only before the season kicks off.
Otherwise he sits out the season.
Make players, coaches and clubs own up to their responsibilities. Because there was a time in rugby league when a handshake held more value than any current contract.
And the game was better for it.
I called the great Mick Cronin this week to get his take on the circus.
Cronin didn't want to have a crack at any of the modern players because that's not his go. But he did fill me in on how it used to be for him.
"I can't say I signed many contracts over the years but I always remember the first one," said Cronin, who was famously known for making a handshake his bond.
"Because Terry Fearnley (then Parramatta coach) said to me,
"Will you please sign this because they don't believe you are coming because you haven't signed a contract'?
"So I signed it on the bonnet of his car."
And after that, Cronin stayed at Parramatta for 10 straight years, always on a year-to-year agreement, while dividing his time between working in the family pub at Gerringong and playing footy on the weekends.
Don't worry, Cronin had plenty of offers over the years to leave Parra for much bigger money. But he says he never seriously considered any of them.
"Whenever anyone ever asked, I'd say, 'Look, I'm not leaving. So I don't want to waste your time'," he said.
"I used to drive up (to Sydney) three or four times a week. It's just what I chose to do. I'd work to 12 o'clock, one o'clock on a Friday night, and sometimes we'd train at eight in the morning.
"I'd come back and work that night until 10 o'clock and then I'd drive back to Sydney because I didn't like travelling on the day of the game. I used to stay at Fearnley's house. I'd walk in pitch black and just go straight to bed.
"I still stayed there even when he was coaching other clubs until I got married.
"But anyway, it is all a bit different today."
Though not necessarily for the better.