Wests Tigers have an extra incentive to continue their run to the finals after their major sponsor promised to tip in a bonus payment if they beat Cronulla on Sunday.
The Tigers will qualify for the finals for the first time since 2011 if they beat the Sharks at a sold-out Leichhardt Oval. That result has the potential to generate a huge windfall in corporate interest, merchandise sales and membership take-up for a club many expected to miss out on the play-offs.
The Herald can reveal major sponsor Brydens Lawyers is dangling a further financial carrot in front of coach Michael Maguire’s men via a five-figure financial bonus should they extend their season further into September.
“I would seriously consider cementing my appreciation of their efforts in a very real way,” Bryden’s Lawyers principal Lee Hagipantelis told the Herald. “I would regard [making] a generous contribution. I have no contractual obligation, of course, but people want to contribute to the success of the club.
“If I was in a position to, and if the club did exceed expectations, then I would be more than willing to consider a manifestation of that appreciation in a very real way."
It is a generous gesture from a firm that already invests heavily in rugby league. Brydens are the major backers of the victorious NSW Blues State of Origin side and also partner with the Rabbitohs, Knights, Dragons and the Men of League Foundation. The finals bonus, if it is triggered, would be in addition to Bryden’s sponsorship arrangement with the Tigers, which runs for a further two seasons.
The salary cap rules mean any cash bonus can’t be passed on to the players. But the financial injection could be used in other ways to indirectly benefit the team.
Hagipantelis said it was difficult to quantify the financial benefit to the company if the Tigers ended their finals drought, but was prepared to reinvest some of the upside back into the club.
“It’s the same experience with the Blues winning - how do you value that exposure, having your brand associated with the winning team?” Hagipantelis said. “There are so many intangibles, but there’s no doubt there is a huge amount of goodwill being generated when the team is doing well. People do identify with the sponsors, particularly the major sponsor.”
The Tigers have defied the odds to even be in contention for a finals berth. Maguire has had up to $4 million of his salary cap sitting on the sidelines at any one time after inheriting a roster that predecessor Ivan Cleary assembled.
Their opponents, Cronulla, are also in a sudden-death situation in their final regular-season game despite boasting a star-studded line-up that includes Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan, Andrew Fifita, Josh Dugan, Wade Graham, Aaron Woods, Matt Prior and Paul Gallen.
The blockbuster clash will mark the farewell appearance for either Gallen or Robbie Farah, the latter attempting to prove his fitness after suffering a fractured tibia last month. Tigers veteran Benji Marshall, in arguably the best form of his career, is deep in negotiations to play on in 2020.