I like to create parameters or filters when it comes to change projects. Signings and resignings qualify as change projects. Here is a rough idea of a 5 pronged filter.
- Experienced players with good records of professionalism and relatively low salaries (max $450k). (James Tamou)
- Unproven high potential young players with great junior track records and relatively low salaries (max $400k). (Shawn Blore etc.)
- Marquee signings. Undeniable talents that would dynamically transform our playing roster. (Position dependent salaries, but essentially top bracket talent in their position groups).
- Chance signings. Players who have shown signs of elite traits but have something preventing them from achieving consistently. Injury/off field drama. These players would need to be paid minimally and be on no more than 1 year contracts. (Under $300k)
- Depth signings. Players who play positions of need that may or may not have experience in the NRL but have shown strong performances in lower grades at minimum and will accept low salaries to get a roster spot. (Under $300k).
If a signing does not fall into this category I do not make it.
For instance a Brent Naden could qualify as a 4 or a 5. The qualifier for Brent is that we do not sign him on more than a 1 year low cost liability. We cannot afford to allow our desperation to attract talent to disrupt our mindset towards roster management. The outcome for doing so is to get Josh Reynolds or BJ Leilua on your rosters overpaid and on long contracts.
Using this filter system to analyse some of our recent signings you can see whether or not it was a good signing.
James Roberts - Is a 4. He’s on a 1 year deal and he isn’t paid that much, so the signing is astute regardless of the outcome.
Stefano Utoikamanu - Is a 2. Fine signing. Throw in Daine Laurie, Shawn Blore, Jake Simpkin, Tuki Simpkins, Jock Madden, Alex Seyfarth etc. into this category. We are actually excelling in this area mostly.
David Nofoaluma resigning - He is a 3. Bad signing. David is not a marquee transformative player. Re-signing him the way we did was a desperation move and a bad business decision.
BJ Leilua - Is a 3. Bad signing. He is actually a 4 and did not qualify because of his contract requirements. Should not have made this signing.
Tom Amone - Is a 5. Can’t really fault this signing. Low risk, potentially high reward.
Joe Ofahengaue - He is a 1. It’s not an amazing 1 but it is a 1 all the same. Low end 1 bordering on a 4. It’s acceptable.
Adam Douehi - He was signed as a marquee and fortunately he actually may be turning into one. I have been impressed. He’s a lower end marquee talent but it could have gone quite poorly because he didn’t really profile as one going in due to relative inexperience. I would have probably got this one wrong if I was in the war room as I would have advised we offer less money than we did.
Analysing our signings using this lens reveals that we have a pretty typical pattern. There seems to be largely an intelligence to our signings that occasionally veers into questionable desperation signings. This is the effect of long term failure and a pressure to win now. Signings like Nofoaluma, Leilua etc. are signings we really should not be making as we are in a rebuild. Nofoaluma and Leilua will not make the difference to a rebuilding side. The on field value of these two players is on par with the same output you can get hitting on a 2, 4, and even a 1. They were overvalued.
Let’s say we signed Reimis Smith instead of BJ Leilua. Would our on field performance be better? I would say yes. Not only would it be, but Reimis has higher upside than BJ and would have cost us less.
Let’s say we kept Corey Thompson instead of Nofoaluma. Would our on field performance be better? Probably not, but it’s close. But we would have paid a lot less and probably got similar output which would have allowed us to invest in other areas.
It appears the Tigers have gotten very astute at identifying young talent but lack when identifying the value of the players they already possess and lack at assessing the value of senior talent, or at the very least take too many risks in that regard.
We have been spoken of as in the market for, or potentially in the race for a couple of signings and I’ll assess them on these parameters.
Brent Naden - In our roster he should be viewed as a 4. This limits him to getting a 1 year offer (2 maybe with the team option), and low money. This should be our offer and we shouldn’t budge. If we don’t get him so be it. We can’t be taking more risks. Our success at identifying younger talent should give us the confidence that if we don’t get him that we should be able to nail a youngster that gives equal output on the field.
Adam Reynolds - He is a genuine 3. I question whether he actually is a quality 3 though primarily due to his age. I don’t really think it is healthy for the Wests Tigers to be making signings that we can’t perceive contributing to success 3-4+ years down the track. Can Adam Reynolds make us go from also rans to win right now? If so then sure. If he can take us to the finals at the very least I can see an argument for making the signing even knowing he won’t be here because gradual improvements will help the club with slow transformation. I would be inclined to throw our hat into the ring but I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on the signing either.
There are a LOT of other players off contract and here are some of the players that I personally would ensure we submit an offer for along with comment.
John Asiata (1) - 1-2 year deal.
Xavier Coates (3) - min 3 year deal. This kid is a genuine emerging superstar. I would make a real effort to get him.
Kotoni Staggs (3) - min 3 year deal. Similar to Coates but I think Coates is actually the better player long term and also I don’t think I’d be willing to offer Staggs the money that he would get elsewhere, but I’d still make an offer.
Caleb Aekins (5) - 1-2 year deal. He would be good roster depth at the right price. Definitely not a bidding war though.
Sebastian Kris (2) - 2-3 year deal. This kid looks like the real deal. I wouldn’t be inclined to go anywhere near marquee money, but we should offer him a deal that pays him around the same as we’re paying Laurie.
Dunamis Lui (1) - 1-2 year deal.
Harley Smith-Shields (2) - 2 year deal. I don’t think we’d match the market for him but I do think we should be diligent and ensuring that we are issuing contracts and sounding out as many of these types of players as we can. If we happen to nab one of these talents because their existing club can’t afford them and other clubs just haven’t got their eyes on him then that’s a major coup. Similarly to how we landed Ryan Matterson in the first place.
Nick Meaney (1) - 1-2 year deal.
William Kennedy (3) - Min 3 year deal. This is an interesting one for me. I know he plays the same position as Laurie, but Kennedy has shown star potential this year and this might be the last year anyone can get him for non marquee money. The Sharks have a lot of roster management to deal with this season and his dad played for Balmain. If we managed to get Kennedy here now I would welcome that and I would be okay with figuring out what to do with him and Laurie as a tandem later because they’d instantly be our best two attacking players anyway. Laurie to 6 and Douehi to centre, backrow or lock maybe.
Nene MacDonald (4) - 1 year deal. Nene is a great talent and the type of player we never seem to have (big, athetlic outside back). Obviously his injury history is terrible but if we can get him cheap as a project I think he’d be worth a year.
Billy Magoulias (5) - 1 year deal. Billy is a good footballer and I think he makes a good prospect for a 13 in this current meta. He’s also someone that I could easily see blooming a bit late. I’ve had my eye on him a while.
Siosifa Talakai - (5) - 2 year deal.
Patrick Herbert - (1) - 2 year deal. - I like the way he plays. He hits hard, runs hard, and never stops trying. We need more of his kind in our club.
Dale Finucane - (3) - 3 year deal. - Getting someone like Finucane is a perfect signing for us. Professional, high class forward from a great system. I would have a good crack at getting him in.
Bunty Afoa - (1) - 2-3 year deal. - Bunty is still quite young and has probably got his best years ahead of him. Pretty good recent track record of under the radar forwards leaving the Warriors and becoming more successful. We need more guys who run hard with fast leg speed. He’d help our middle a lot.
Peta Hiku - (1) - 2 year deal. I often wonder whether we’d have more success if we made more purely defensive signings. Hiku is one of the better defensive centres in the game. Plug him into one of our centre positions and yeah he might not break a game open but he can sure help us with defensive fragility which will keep us in more games for longer.
Adam Pompey - (2) - 2 year deal. I like the size and athetlicism of Pompey as competing for a centre or wing spot at the Tigers. He’d be an upgrade on most of what we have at those positions.
Lachlan Fitzgibbon - (1) - 3 year deal. Probably entering his prime. I would expect Newcastle will give him more money than he should get paid so we probably wouldn’t get him but I’d put a contract on the table. I like his personality as a fit with Madge. Would be our second best backrower immediately (maybe even first depending on how you feel about Looch).
Nathan Brown - (1) - 3 year deal. I’d love to bring him back. He’s the exact type of player we lack. He’d be one of my main targets if I was running the shop. I wouldn’t give him marquee dollars though. Set and forget 13 and Twal goes back to the prop rotation. Big win for us.
Ray Stone - (5) - 1 year deal. Another I’d like to bring back. A bit of a Nathan Brown backup plan. I love the way Ray plays also and he’d give similar to our roster at a budget.
Brent Naden - (4) - 1 year deal with a TO. I do think he’s a less risky version of the Roberts signing. Let Roberts go and bring him in if the price is right and we probably are better off.
Adam Reynolds - (3) - 3 year deal. Go for it, why not? He’s the best player on the market. I don’t really want to get into a bidding war for him though if the likes of North Queensland want to give him Morgan’s money or something. We’d need to get him on account of the Madge effect or if he doesn’t want to leave Sydney and no other Sydney teams are in the race. It would also require us to find someone to take Brooks off us and take quite a bit of his salary also.
Jaydn Su’a - (1) - 3 year deal. Su’a would be a great fit for us as a backrow option. Hits hard, runs hard. Would be an upgrade.
Fletcher Baker (2) - 3 year deal.
Egan Butcher (2) - 3 year deal.
Angus Crichton (3) - 3-4 year deal.
Issac Liu (1) - 2-3 year deal.
Billy Smith (2) - 2 year deal.
Daniel Tupou (1) - 2-3 year deal.
Sam Walker (3) - 5 year deal. Here is one I would sort of break my own rules for because he could genuinely change our fortunes for the next decade if we hit on him. We should be prepared to give him marquee money. I don’t care about the risks here. At 18 he stepped in and looked like an immortal 2 games straight. This kid is going to be insanely good and we can’t afford to let the Roosters lock him down for the next several years on a cheap contract or they will reset their legacy. At the very least we need to be in there setting his market value at a point where it forces the Roosters to consider letting go of some of the aforementioned names, of which I would take any/all if we could. If the Roosters can get Walker on under $400k the rest of the teams in the NRL are insane. I don’t care about the Politis effect, make the offer. I want to take on the Roosters big time this salary season because they have the best off contract talent and the trick to getting access to it is through Walker.
Thomas Mikaele (2) - 1 year extension. I think he’s still got improvement to come. He’s the only off contract player of ours I’d resign right now. Maybe Amone if he comes good.