Kieran Foran, Ash Taylor, Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans, Nathan Cleary, Michael Morgan, Anthony Milford and Mitchell Pearce are currently getting paid more than Keary will receive in his new deal.
If the Gold Coast Titans are willing to splash the cash and fork out $1.2m for Fifita, Keary could well demand similar figures given he has represented his country and won three NRL premierships during his career. He was also voted the best five-eighth in the NRL by his peers in the recent 2020 Players’ Poll.
Injuries have denied Keary the chance to play State of Origin, but the 2018 Clive Churchill Medal winner is expected to make his NSW debut in the No.6 jersey at the end of the year.
The 28-year-old, who helped set up the match-winning try in last season’s grand final against the Canberra Raiders, is entering the prime of his career having turned 28 at the start of the year and has taken his game to another level following the retirement of Cooper Cronk.
Unlike some players, Keary has recognised that if he demanded more than $1m to stay, it would cost the team elsewhere.
Such a payday could mean the Morris brothers wouldn’t be able to stay on for another season, or Tedesco wouldn’t be able to receive the type of money that reflects his new status as the best player in the game.
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each day. Sign up here.
The Roosters, led by coach Trent Robinson and club supremo Nick Politis, have also recognised the importance of not paying overs. They offered Latrell Mitchell $800,000 last year, however he wanted more.
The Roosters wouldn’t budge, offering what they believed he was worth to their team, not what he could attract elsewhere.
Mitchell’s defection has opened the door for the tricolours to lure Sonny Bill Williams back to the NRL, with the dual international set to hop on a plane in the coming days bound for a Sydney hotel room for a fortnight of quarantine before rejoining his old club.
Foran’s fine print
As reported by the Herald a couple of weeks ago, Canterbury have offered Kieran Foran a one-year contract worth between $300,000-$400,000. Foran wants to stay and incoming coach Trent Barrett also wants him to remain.
The sticking point regards concerns over his durability. The Bulldogs have offered him a base salary closer to $300,000 with the remaining value to be paid if he plays a certain amount of games.
The Bulldogs have paid him more than a $1m a season for the past three years but he’s played half of those games.
Foran isn’t disputing that his value has dropped significantly, but he doesn’t want his deal to be based around terms relating to the number of games he plays. The Bulldogs have been supportive of Foran through his injuries but are just trying to protect themselves in fear of the worst.
NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has made no secret of the significance he places on character and integrity when selecting his teams.
Before last week’s game, we contacted Fittler to see if Eels forward Ryan Matterson was still in his plans given the way he exited the Wests Tigers. ‘‘Since the exodus he has shown nothing but a great attitude and his football is proof,’’ Fittler said. ‘‘Can’t wait to see how he handles this week.’’
While Fittler didn’t get much of a chance to see him in action after a heavy concussion ended his night early, it’s safe to say he remains part of the coach’s plans leading into the end-of-season State of Origin series.
Anthem for change
This week isn’t the right time given the planned Indigenous round celebrations, but bubbling along in the background is the debate around the national anthem.
It speaks to the power of the voices of Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Cody Walker that the NRL is now considering scrapping the singing of Advance Australia Fair before this year’s Origin series after the trio’s stance last year.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has met with the game’s leading Indigenous players several times to hear their point of view. V’landys has also met with the country’s leading media outlets, with the chairman to front a press conference this morning to kick-start a week of recognition.
The NRL is still forging ahead with plans to play three State of Origin games at the end of the year in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, however the code is willing to mix things up if needed.
All three matches could possibly be played in Queensland, especially if the COVID-19 situation worsens in NSW as it has in Victoria. While NSW will still go into the series as the overwhelming favourites, three games at Suncorp Stadium will level the playing field.
Lean, mean and quarantine
The Sydney Roosters and NRL are making plans to ensure 34-year-old Sonny Bill Williams is well looked after during his 14-day stay in quarantine with his family. Williams will have a gym set up in his apartment to help him prepare for his return to the Roosters.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald