NRL outcasts: The 16 unwanted stars stuck in rugby league contract limbo
Matt Moylan’s manager has revealed the current predicament facing his client and 16 other unwanted stars, detailing his blunt dealings with Wests Tigers. See the full list of ‘outcasts’ here.
Phil Rothfield , Sports Editor-at-Large, News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
October 14, 2020 6:21pm
These are the NRL’s unwanted 16 stars who are up for sale; eight of them State of Origin players and six of them Test footballers on contracts worth more than $10 million.
Poor form, off-field issues and injuries have contributed to them becoming rugby league outcasts.
These are some of the biggest names in the game.
A handful of clubs that might be interested in picking them up on reduced rates are being held back by the uncertainty over the salary cap for next year and beyond.
Also, many clubs are trying to move on their own players before the cap space becomes available to go shopping for the “outcasts”.
Matt Moylan is struggling to find a club. Picture: AAP/Brendon Thorne
The Wests Tigers have let it be known they will contribute substantially if any of their rivals want Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye or Russell Packer to free up $2.4 million in their cap. Yet there have been no bites.
The 29-year-old has played only 19 games in the past two years because of injuries.
“I thought there would be a couple of possibilities but every club is in the same situation,” Gainey said.
“They are nearly all trying to move on players before they look at others. Everyone’s on hold.
“There might be a spot at the Wests Tigers for Matt but not until they can move Josh Reynolds or the others they are trying to shop.”
Gainey spoke to Cronulla CEO Dino Mezzatesta about Moylan’s case on Tuesday.
It doesn’t help that Moylan has a reputation from his Penrith days around his commitment.
“I told Dino I’ve been doing my best but nothing’s happening,” Gainey said.
“I’ve pulled out all stops, seriously.
It’s no secret Wests Tigers are trying to offload Josh Reynolds, Russell Packer and Moses Mbye. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty
“Look, Matt wants to prove a point. He’s really popular around the group at Cronulla and it would be hard for him to leave but I’ve been trying.”
Cronulla would even contribute $400,000 if there was a taker.
It’s not just Moylan at the Sharks. They started shopping Josh Dugan last season, two years before his contract was up. Andrew Fifita still has two years to run on his contract.
They were all deals coach John Morris inherited from previous coach Shane Flanagan.
Kevvie Walters has the same issues at the Broncos.
Jack Bird is on a ridiculous $975,000 next year. He has played only 17 games in two seasons at the Broncos. Plus Walters want to offload Matt Lodge.
The Cowboys are prepared to release tough middle forward Josh McGuire to St George Illawarra yet they can’t agree on a deal. The Dragons can only squeeze him into the cap if the Cowboys pay half.
Even the opportunities to place players in the UK Super League are no longer there.
“There’s not much happening in England at all,” player agent Steve Gillis said. “It’s the most quiet I’ve ever experienced in these unprecedented times.
“Normally with their promotion and relegation system, things become a bit frantic as clubs try to stay in Super League or climb up from division one.
Brisbane hasn’t got much bang for their buck when it comes to the talented but injury-prone Jack Bird. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
“This year there’s no promotion and relegation. There’s no urgency to improve their rosters. Plus there’s COVID. A lot of the club are in serious financial trouble from no crowds and sponsorship dwindling.”
One of the common themes of the four preliminary final teams is that they’ve been careful not to throw the type of crazy money at stars that will come back to bite them.
Only James Roberts ($550,000) at the Rabbitohs and Dean Whare ($460,000) at the Panthers make our list.
It was one of Phil Gould’s strengths as general manager of football at the Penrith Panthers to move on unwanted players.
In 2018, Trent Merrin wasn’t justifying his $800,000 price tag at the Panthers.
Gould told him he was no longer required and he left for the UK.
He also convinced veteran five-eighth James Maloney to leave a year early to use his contract money for the next generation of Panthers who have come through so spectacularly this year.
Why keep Maloney with Jarome Luai and Matt Burton banging on the door for first grade?
Ricky Stuart was good at it, too.
There was the famous story in 2007 at Cronulla when Stuart inherited Queensland Origin centre Josh Hannay on a $150,000-a-year contract and halfback Brett Seymour.
Stuart wanted them out, the players wanted their money. To try to force them to go, Hannay was sent back to the park to play A-grade for the Gymea Gorillas. It was a long way from Suncorp Stadium in front of 40,000 fans to Corea Rd Oval in park footy in the Shire.
Seymour was dispatched to the Engadine Dragons.
Eventually they settled on departure packages.
These days it’s much harder and the RLPA wouldn’t allow it to happen.
As one manager said yesterday: “It’s not the players’ fault — it’s the clubs’. They’re now trying to clean up a mess they created themselves.”