Some of those deals are now coming back to bite current management, who are trying to overhaul a roster that has struggled over the first month of the season under new coach Todd Payten.
The Rabbitohs are desperate to avoid a similar situation unfolding at their club as they refuse to budge on their one-year offer worth $700,000 to Reynolds. South Sydney already have 12 players contracted for the 2023 season, the most of any club in the NRL, taking up about $5.5 million in the salary cap.
There is little doubt Cody Walker will be offered an extension beyond 2022, which will take the tally to about $6.3 million.
If South Sydney extend Reynolds’ contract for two years, they will have around $7 million of the $9 million salary cap taken up by 14 players, leaving the club an average of $125,000 to spend on each of the remaining 16 players. The minimum NRL wage is $75,000.
Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Murray, Jai Arrow, Campbell Graham, Damien Cook, Thomas Burgess, Tevita Tatola, Liam Knight, Hame Sele, Keaon Koloamatangi, Jacob Host and Jed Cartwright are the 12 Rabbitohs players contracted until the end of 2023.
The club has reiterated to Reynolds’ manager they would be happy to revisit another extension in 12 months and move players on if necessary, but don’t want to commit long term at the risk of crippling the club’s salary cap if things didn’t work out with the playmaker.
The club has a big opinion of young halves Lachlan Ilias and Blake Taafe, who led the club to the 2019 Jersey Flegg title, and are hoping to get value for money out of the pair in the early stages of their career to help balance the salary cap.
If Reynolds decides to leave, one option for South Sydney will be to play veteran Benji Marshall at No.7 for one season to allow Ilias, an Australian schoolboy rugby star, and Taafe time to develop for the 2023 season.
Silence on Stefano
Both the Wests Tigers and Eels have been hoping to get through the week without mention of young gun Stefano Utoikamanu lining up against his old club on Monday afternoon.
The reason Utoikamanu refused to re-sign with the Eels remains a touchy subject for Parramatta officials. It relates to a broken neck suffered by his brother while playing junior Origin for NSW and why the Eels would not let him play again after that injury.
Utoikamanu was willing to quit the sport altogether as a show of support for his brother. The Tigers have kept the prop away from the media and didn’t want their star recruit getting caught up in the emotion as he prepares for the Easter Monday showdown at ANZ Stadium. It’s a story for another day.
Finucane in shop window
One of the targets on North Queensland’s recruitment hit list is off-contract Storm skipper Dale Finucane. His manager is holding out hope for a four-year, $3.2 million deal with the Storm, however, that is going to be difficult considering Melbourne are attempting to extend Ryan Papenhuyzen and Harry Grant on long-term deals.
Mbye stifles conjecture
Moses Mbye has shut down talk that he wants out of the club partly because of the treatment of a knee injury at the end of last year.
It’s worth noting Mbye did suffer a PCL injury during the 2019 pre-season, only to be asked to play in a trial game the following week in New Zealand, where he aggravated the knee injury and hindered his performance for the rest of the year. No doubt it played a part in his decision to undergo surgery and rule himself out for the final month of 2020.
Kyrgios makes guest appearance
Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios made a special appearance at Canberra training during the week. Kyrgios is normally on tour at this time of year and has had very little to do with his local rugby league club over the years. He spoke to the players and watched training this week, towering over Josh Papalii in this photo taken by the Raiders.
The Fox’s cheeky shot
Craig Bellamy didn’t appear to see the funny side of Josh Addo-Carr kicking a penalty goal, and celebrating like Johnathan Thurston in the 2015 grand final, from in front of the sticks in the dying minutes of Friday night’s win against Brisbane.
Addo-Carr wasn’t the only player celebrating his 100th NRL game for Melbourne on Friday, with prop Christian Welch sharing the milestone game.
Welch was offered the penalty goal first, however, he declined because he felt it was disrespectful to Brisbane. The Fox happily obliged, much to the displeasure of the coach.
No, Evans didn’t defect
There were a few raised eyebrows when Warriors recruit Kane Evans ran out for Newcastle in reserve grade on Sunday. The Warriors use Redcliffe in Queensland Cup as their feeder club, however, the NSWRL has allowed the Warriors to loan players to NSW Cup teams as part of the game’s biosecurity measures to deal with the outbreak north of the border.
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald