By Sacha Mirzabegian
2 hours ago
Phil Gould has called on the NRL to provide Manly with financial assistance to keep Tom and Jake Trbojevic at Brookvale for life, as the representative brothers weigh up huge offers from rival clubs.
While it’s believed Manly have put together a package deal worth around $10 million to keep both brothers on the Peninsula, it’s been revealed other clubs have their eyes firmly on the duo.
Both players are contracted the club until the end of 2020 and it’s been reported that the younger brother, Tom, will earn more than brother Jake in the proposed Manly deal. Yet that has been met with resistance from the brothers’ management group, with their reps pushing for Jake to be paid just as much.
If Manly opt to pay both brothers more than $1 million a season, then along with Daly Cherry-Evans, three players will take up in excess of $3 million in a salary cap of about $10 million, leaving the Sea Eagles in a difficult position.
Manly is doing all it can to be salary cap compliant after being fined by the NRL over cap issues last year. Making matters even more difficult for the club is the fact both players have ruled out taking third-party money to keep them there.
This has opened the door for clubs like the Bulldogs to cut some of the fat off their playing roster - Kieran Foran and Will Hopoate have been mentioned - to make a huge play for the Trbojevics by the end of 2020.
But such a move would have a disastrous impact on Manly, according to former Penrith GM and Channel Nine commentator Gould, with the Sea Eagles just starting to find their feet after the return of premiership-winning coach Des Hasler.
Speaking on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast, Gould highlighted the significance of keeping local juniors at clubs and how the NRL needs to do more to help teams preserve their own. According to Gould, the NRL marketing department currently has the ability to throw up to $40,000 at players in an incentive for them to stay, but the former Penrith official said it’s simply not enough.
The situation resonates deeply with Gould, mainly due to the fact that the Panthers have a huge league nursery out west but have failed to hang on to several players over the past few years.
More needs to be done to keep the brothers at Manly. (AAP)
Gould revealed that several years ago the matter was so concerning to him that he called a meeting with senior administrators of the NRL, in an attempt to nut-out if the league could help clubs hold on to players they’d invested in through their development systems.
He said he received a promise from then Head of Football, now CEO, Todd Greenberg, that the NRL would do all it could to help clubs protect their investments.
“I can remember having a board meeting at the Panthers four or five years ago,” Gould said. "It was (former CEO) David Smith, Nick Weeks from NRL Integrity, Jamie L’Oste Brown was salary cap auditor at the time and Todd Greenberg was Head of Football. We were talking about the issues I anticipated Panthers would face down the track. "Because of the development systems in place a lot of our players could come through would be valuable and whether or not we could keep them. Todd said at the time ‘It’s the NRL’s responsibility to help you keep them there’.
Todd Greenberg promised Gould the NRL would help clubs keep locally developed players. "I said, ‘Good you’re going to help us keep these players’ and he said, ‘Well I think it’s good that you develop them and we should be trying to help,’ it’s stuck in my mind.
“They’ve done nothing about it,” Gould continued. “Through the NRL marketing they give a couple of players in each club some money but that’s not going to help make a big difference if a player’s going to stay with their club if he’s hit with a huge offer from elsewhere.”
In the past, clubs would have done everything in their power to gauge interest from the business world about tipping in some cash to help them keep players through third-party agreements (TPAs). The biggest concern from a player’s perspective is recouping the money that is owed to them, which has proved difficult for some.
Yet the more pressing issue is the inequality it creates between the clubs. Last year, Greenberg said he didn’t want TPAs to give certain clubs leverage in negotiations when the player should be lured by the fee that is to be paid inside his salary cap.
Gould said attitudes towards third-party deals have changed significantly over the last few years.
“Third-party deals have diminished significantly over the last four or five years, there’s nothing like there was when I first came back into Penrith,” he said.
"When you speak to players from other clubs, it would make your mind boggle because there was an inequality there for a long time. I don’t think clubs or the league want to go down the path of having significant third parties deciding whether a player remains at a club.
“To retain a player that’s reached the status of the Trbojevic players, there should be corporate assistance in keeping them at that club and you agreeing with the salary cap auditor what’s a fair and reasonable mark to put them at the salary cap out of the fixed wage.”
Gould said something should have been worked out a long time ago and if it had been, it could have changed the fortunes of many teams.
"The Melbourne Storm didn’t put its champion team together by going out and pinching players from other clubs. “They brought in some teenagers and developed them into what they were. You should never run into salary cap problems trying to keep a developed player. But it’s never been done properly because there is no regulation of the movement of players.”