HE IS described as ‘‘the best forward in the world’’ but at Wests Tigers the impending signing of Adam Blair is causing uncertainty and confusion rather than celebration.
While the acquisition of the New Zealand international would be a major coup for the Tigers, his big-money arrival is heaping pressure on the places of 2005 premiership winners Liam Fulton and Bryce Gibbs. Fulton, 26, broached the touchy topic for the first time yesterday, saying his and Gibbs’s preference was to stay.
Fulton and Gibbs have been granted permission for their agent, Darryl Mather, to seek options for them elsewhere despite being contracted until the end of 2013 and 2014 respectively. Fullback Wade McKinnon last week signed with English Super League side Hull FC.
Blair has long been considered a lock to join the Tigers but the fact he is still yet to sign suggests some manoeuvring still needs to take place, amid speculation the Roosters remain in the market for him.
Fulton was resolute in his desire to remain a Tiger but, realistic about the situation, it can be implied he and Gibbs would likely accept rival offers if they were tasty enough.
‘‘We don’t have to go anywhere,’’ he said. ''We don’t really want to leave but at the end of the day if something comes up we’ll look into it. I think [my manager] spoke to a couple of different places but nothing has been set in concrete. He might be still out there looking around.
‘‘There’s a lot of talk going around signing players and people having to leave but at the end of the day I’ve got another two years here.’’
Confusion surrounds the reasons for the possible exits of Fulton and Gibbs, with Fulton saying salary-cap pressure was the main factor but others at the club suggesting the popular forwards feared for their positions in first grade with Blair and the emerging Simon Dwyer, Andrew Fifita, Aaron Woods and Ben Murdoch-Masila on the scene, among others.
‘‘It is a business and I can understand that,’’ Fulton said. ‘‘If things happen, it will be up to me. It won’t have any bearing on the club pushing me out because they can’t - because I’ve got another two years here.’’
As for Blair, Fulton has heard it said the Kiwis vice-captain has already signed with the Tigers but has not had it verified. ‘‘I don’t even know … whether they’ve signed him or they haven’t. It’s just speculation,’’ he said.
Tigers chief Stephen Humphreys said last night: ‘‘The players, through their manager, have wanted to have some conversations and check out their options and we gave permission. If they come back with something material we’ll look at it; if not they’re part of our contract list and they’ll be in our squad.’’
The Roosters, meanwhile, deny they have performed their own off-loading to attract Blair. It had been suggested Queensland forward Nate Myles’s move to the Gold Coast was designed to free up money for a big-money pursuit of the 25-year-old, whose management has been asking for upwards of $500,000 a season.
Roosters officials had been interested in Blair several months ago but they maintain the club cannot afford him. The exit of an on-contract player in Myles, they say, centred on a need to stay under the salary cap next year, rather than to buy one of the world’s most expensive forwards.
‘‘We can’t afford Adam Blair as we stand today,’’ Roosters recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan said yesterday. ''Unless something dramatic happens … we can’t pay that sort of dollars for a forward, as good as he is.
‘‘In my opinion, he’s the best forward in the world, but the best forwards in the world still don’t get that sort of dollars. They go to Cooper Cronk and [Johnathan] Thurston.’’
Blair’s manager, Isaac Moses, was tight-lipped about his client’s future, adding: ‘‘I don’t think he’ll make a decision this week.’’
The Storm are resigned to losing a player who, upon the departure of Greg Inglis, became one of the ‘‘big four’’ in their leadership group. ‘‘If we were to lose him we’d be disappointed,’’ football manager Frank Ponissi said. ‘‘He’s a player developed here since he was 18, he’s got leadership qualities and can play front row and back row. He’s got the whole package.’’
I’ve always been a believer in class players and Blair has that.
In fact more than Gibbs and Fulton who are both good honest club players.
Blair however, brings more to the team (playing wise) in skill and ability and as such, will aid us more in the clubs endeavours to win another premiership.
It appears we need to resolve our structure, maybe we have told him we want him but as yet carn’t afford him until we refine our playing structure, maybe thats the delay ?.
Good to hear Liam’s side of the story. Both he and Bryce have contracts that bind the club to keep them on. But, it seems like we have to shed some cap to get Adam Blair, even if we backload the deal. So, Liam and Bryce have been ‘given permission’ to talk to other clubs. Maybe someone will offer them more money or more security then they get at WT. Maybe not. The club is hoping that at least one of them goes, so that, with Wade McKinnon going, and maybe Toddy Payton retiring, enough cap is freed up for Blair.
If neither of them goes - which is their prerogative - there must be a ‘plan B’ that presumably involves shedding a number of our current depth players. Mitch Brown, Geoff Daniella, Beau Ryan, plus McKinnon. The negative with that is that it’s more players to make up the sum and it’s losing 3-4 backs to gain one forward.
If we get Blair, and we don’t have a run of injuries, Liam’s best chance would be as the 14, covering backrowers and backs, and quite possibly not playing many minutes. He might prefer to play somewhere else where he is assured of a starting spot.
I like the look of the props we have this week vs the Knights - Galloway, Fifita, Gibbs and Woods. Who needs Adam Blair?? He certainly isn’t worth tearing the club apart.
If you want to add Blair & have him become the #1 prop at the club, can you afford Galloway at his price as the #2?
In my opinion, Galloway is the one to go, if they are serious about adding Blair.
You upgrade the prop position, possibly, without ripping the squad to bits to make it happen.
Or you replace Ellis- who wants to return to England to finish his career over there anyway.
Losing 3-4 players now to sign Blair is harsh. But then there is the retention of Blair to add to it- how many guys will we lose in time to get him?
Here’s a question- are the Tigers “Adam Blair-away” from winning the competition?
Is he the missing piece?
Because if not- he’s not worth mortgaging a chunk of the future of this club for.
For mine, Blair isn’t worth Gibbs & Fulton- not when the Tigers already have guys like Woods, Murdoch-Massila, Fifita, Groat & Dwyer emerging.
For mine, any number of those young guys could be Adam Blair-like.
No need to spend $500k on one above average footballer.
Guys like Gibbs & Fulton are vital to an NRL squad- first grade quality guys that don’t break the salary cap- allowing a little ‘indulgence’ in higher quality guys like Ellis & Lote.
You can’t have 25 elite footballers. The Cap won’t allow it. So get the 3-4 you ‘need’, then fill the squad with as good quality depth as you can find. Kind of like the Tigers have done now.
This team doesn’t need more ‘stars’.
It needs it’s ‘stars’ to shine.
I think we need Blair and we need to change the faces around Concord. You need new faces to keep a place fresh. I have said before you either change your coach every three to four years or keep moving players through your club and as the coach is not going anywhere we need new blood for his magic to work.
The only trouble everyone is under contract and dont want to leave home, they are obviously been paid overs, its not like they are being rushed with offers