Got an essay here
I want to start by saying this thread prompted me to have a think about what’s going on with Tigers fans pre-season 2020. We’ve finished 9th a million times and not played finals most years, but there appears to me to be an unprecedented doom and gloom on here.
Personally, how one might have had optimism in the first year of, say, the Potter or Jason Taylor reigns, but have lost it now, I don’t know. I’m pretty convinced that Madge is a far better calibre of coach than those two and, dare I say it, the best credentialed coach we’ve ever had besides Tim Sheens.
Similarly, @avocadoontoast posted, re hoisting the white flag
“I’d be ok hoisting it now to be honest. I’ve just about had enough.
Why this year? Tigers have struggled for as long as I’ve been alive, but why 2020 is it now too much?
Clearly the team needs to be better and that either comes from improving the current players, or improving the roster. I have a strong impression that this whole Latrell business has really gotten to some people, simply because there was this opportunity of rapidly and handsomely improving the roster in one single shot, and now it appears to have been lost, and it’s crushed a few people.
These people otherwise have no confidence in improving the current players, because that’s been a long-term strategy that hasn’t worked out, and Madge simply managed to repeat the previous middle-ground 9th, same as always. I get that.
So I was thinking about the OP for a while, and the question I ask is: how many clubs sign “elite” players at all? Assuming there’s some significant amount of elite player trade and the Tigers are one of the few teams unable to get involved.
Let’s define “elite” as Origin representative quality or better. Then let’s look at the Origin sides in Game 1 2019:
Kalyn Ponga – signed by Newy the year he debuted Origin
Corey Oates – still at original club
Michael Morgan – still at original club
Will Chambers – still at original club
Dane Gagai – signed by Newy 3 years before playing Origin, signed by Souths 3 years after playing Origin
Cameron Munster – still at original club
Daly Cherry-Evans – still at original club
Jai Arrow – signed by Titans the year he debuted Origin
Ben Hunt – signed by Dragons the year after his Origin debut (debuted with original club Broncos)
Josh Papalii – still at original club
Felise Kaufusi – still at original club
Matt Gillett – still at original club
Josh McGuire – signed by Cows 4 years after Origin debut (debuted with original club Broncos)
Moses Mbye – signed by Tigers year before Origin debut
Joe Ofahengaue – still at original club
Dylan Napa – signed by Dogs 2 years after Origin debut (debuted with original club Easts)
David Fifita – still at original club
James Tedesco – signed by Easts 2 years after playing Origin (debuted with original club Tigers)
Nick Cotric – still at original club
Latrell Mitchell – still at original club
Josh Morris – signed by Bulldogs same year as Origin debut
Josh Addo-Carr – signed by Storm 1 year before Origin debut
Cody Walker – still at original club
Nathan Cleary – still at original club
David Klemmer – signed w Newy 4 years after Origin debut
Damien Cook – signed by Dogs 4 years before Origin debut, signed by Souths 2 years before debut
Paul Vaughan – signed by Dragons 1 year before Origin debut
Boyd Cordner – still at original club
Tyson Frizell – signed with Dragons 3 years before Origin debut
Jake Trbojevic – still at original club
Jack Wighton – still at original club
Payne Haas – still at original club
Cameron Murray – still at original club
Angus Crichton – signed with Easts year after Origin debut
What is striking in this example is that 19/34 (56%) players are still with their debut club. A further 9 (26%) players signed with their second NRL club before their Origin debut, i.e. were not rep-level players at the time they signed.
That leaves just 6/34 (18%) players who moved to a second club after becoming Origin players.
You look at those in further detail, you have:
Hunt – headhunted for $1M by Dragons, you can fairly say hasn’t worked out
McGuire – signed by Cows after being released by Broncos
Napa – signed by Dogs after being released by Roosters
Tedesco – headhunted for $1M by Roosters
Klemmer – released by Dogs for personal reasons, signed for $850K
Crichton – headhunted by Roosters for close to $1M
So 50% of the players who joined a second club after their Origin debut were released by their incumbent, and the other 50% are all $1M headhunting efforts, mostly by the Roosters.
This data indicates that it’s much more likely to have an Origin player developed from within your club, than sign such a player from another club. I.e. the player either debuted for your side or joined your side before being selected for Origin.
You can argue that some players were signed on the cusp of, or with expectation of, playing Origin, which is fine, but then Moses Mbye and probably Ryan Matterson fit that description, in which case the Tigers DO sign elite-level players.
The other striking feature of these Origin players is that I believe only 3 have had more than 2 clubs – Gagai, Josh Morris and Cook, and Cook was is a technicality because he only played 2 games on debut for the Dragons. Josh Morris has only just completed 1 year with Sharks and only played 2 seasons with Dragons before leaving. Gagai is really the only example in this list of a player headhunted by a 3rd club after being an Origin rep.
Therefore even if you try to sign an Origin-calibre player, the data suggests they are unlikely to move clubs more than once.
Fundamentally, the data suggests that there isn’t a particularly large trade in elite players, and actually most rep-level players are developed from within, or tactically headhunted before they reach Origin level. This would then say that Tigers primary focus should not be signing elite players, but rather developing our own elite players, or astutely buying players who may be elite propositions within a few seasons.
To try and actually sign an existing and established elite player, you typically need $1M or need to be on the lucky end of a secured release, which is the Latrell situation. The secured release is risky, because it says that the incumbent club WANTS to be rid of the player.
And finally, to be headhunting these elite players, the only real clubs to do it successfully in the current crop of rep players are Easts, Souths and, funnily enough, Newcastle.
So is it really the situation that Tigers are consistently unable to secure elite talent, or is it more accurate to say that elite talent infrequently moves around, and when it does, there are a shortlist of clubs that have the success / pulling power to jag these elite players. And then when elite players do move, it will cost you $1M.