The only good players going to clubs like the Titans and Knights are ones that are either:
(1) looking for more opportunity e.g.
Arrow, Wallace, Taylor from the Broncos
Peachey and Cartwright from the Panthers
Watson from the Roosters
Ponga from the Cowboys
(2) looking for a last contract payday
Eg Guerra and Glasby
Or (3) have a connection to the area
Eg Ramien and Proctor
Klemmer is the notable exception who wanted to get out of Sydney due to family issues.
It’s fair to say that money was also a big part of the Ponga signing because the Cowboys weren’t willing to pay for an unproven player. However in my opinion, Newcastle will struggle to retain him now that he’s proven himself as a superstar.
Also, forget about comparing clubs in the NRL era… the landscape has changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years. Eg the roosters were indeed in and out of the finals a lot in the latter half of the 2000s, but they’ve been in the top 4 six out of the last 7 times (this is going off memory, so feel free to fact check).
My point is, let’s not pretend all 16 clubs are created equally. Clubs like the Titans, Newcastle, and probably the Cowboys in a post-Thurston era, are going to struggle to maintain the same consistency as some of the big market clubs. The Raiders are in a similar boat but have made a smart strategic decision to recruit some of the top players from England. The Raiders are also in a sound financial position of the field.
As for what this means for the Tigers… I truly believe we are a sleeping giant, we just need to start winning! It’s a continuous feedback cycle… from a player’s perspective, success on the field brings individual recognition, which leads to rep opportunities, bonuses, higher contracts etc, which then in turn makes a club a desirable place for free agents.