DEAN RITCHIE, The Daily Telegraph
November 14, 2016
WESTS Tigers have been told they face the biggest retention challenge in 30 years as $6 million worth of playing talent heads for the open market.
A total of 21 Wests Tigers players are off-contract after next season, including the Big Four — Aaron Woods, James Tedesco, Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses.
Those four alone would cost the club around $3 million.
James Tedesco headlines a massive list of off-contract Wests Tigers players. Picture: Gregg Porteous
The Tigers haven’t endured such pressure to retain star players since Balmain kept Steve Roach, Ben Elias, Wayne Pearce, Paul Sironen and Garry Jack together in the mid to late 1980s.
Question marks remain about how Brooks, Tedesco, Moses and Woods — and 17 others — were all allowed to come off contract at the same time.
But the Tigers remain confident all four will remain at Concord despite some rival clubs thinking one star may be lost due to salary cap constraints and confusion.
Mitchell Moses is another star the Wests Tigers are hoping to re-sign. Picture: Gregg Porteous
“This is the club’s most significant challenge in 30 years,” Ben Elias said.
“We had this problem with Pearce, Roach, Elias, Sironen and Jack back in the 1980s.
“How did we keep them? It was the hardest thing ever. How (then Tigers secretary) Keith Barnes did it was an absolute miracle.
Aaron Woods is among the Wests Tigers stars coming off-contract. Picture: Gregg Porteous
“We all got offered massive money to go elsewhere.
“I know Tedesco, Moses, Brooks and Woods are all very close. One will go with the other.
“All four want to stay, absolutely. This will be about enjoying their football for the next six years. And they will enjoy a lot more by staying together than splitting.”
Fellow Tigers great Steve Roach fears one or more players may walk away, leaving the club in “dire straits”.
“I just can’t see how the club can keep all four and it’s the club’s own fault for letting them come off at the same time. It doesn’t make sense,” Roach said.
“They will be all vying against each other for the coin. You can’t put four into a package deal.”
Aside from the four big names, Tim Grant is off contract after next season, as is Tim Simona, Jamal Idris, David Nofoaluma, Kyle Lovett, Jordan Rankin and Kevin Naiqama.
The Wests Tigers will be working to extended Luke Brooks’ contract. Picture: Mark Evans
Club CEO Justin Pascoe is working overtime to secure his playing roster and believes players now want to be a part of the Tigers.
“Our intent hasn’t changed — conversations are happening with player managers as we speak behind closed doors. Those conversations will continue and have been really positive,” Pascoe said.
“We won’t drag it out through the media. We are not just about retaining players, we are also out there aggressively trying to attract players as well.”
Their plight isn’t being helped by the NRL’s delay in announcing the new salary cap increase.
“It certainly makes it mathematically challenging, not having an understanding of how much money we can spend on players,” Pascoe said.
Roach added: “I’m a bit worried that if they lose a few of those players, the club will be in dire straits.”