Rugby League: Newcastle Knights refuse to pay crazy money for players

CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Dane Gagai (left) gets his point across to teammates at Knights training. Picture: Marina Neil
CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Dane Gagai (left) gets his point across to teammates at Knights training. Picture: Marina Neil

NEWCASTLE chief executive Matt Gidley says the Knights will not fall into the trap of “offering crazy amounts of money” to entice players to commit to the club.

The Knights appear set to lose star Dane Gagai to South Sydney despite tabling a “really good four-year offer”.

The 26-year-old has reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year $2.1 million move to Redfern.

The Rabbitohs contract is understood to be propped up by a third party agreement (TPA), similar to those in place for Greg Inglis and other indigenous players at the club.

Gidley said although the Knights utilised a “a couple of TPAs” there were far fewer opportunities in Newcastle.

“The vast majority of businesses already sponsor us, which excludes them from entering into third party arrangements,” he said. “We are working hard, and we do have some, but it will take time to get anywhere near the scale of some clubs.”

The Knights have a war chest of more than $3.5 million for next season and are in the market for two marquee players. They have targeted Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk and Canterbury captain James Graham. 

Cronk is yet to decided if he will play on and Graham, who is contracted to the Dogs in 2018, has been assured he is part of Des Hasler’s plans.

Gidley remains hopeful of retaining Gagai but said without the benefit of TPAs, which are not included in the salary cap, they had to be prudent.

“We have made it really clear how much we would like Gags to stay,” Gidley said. “We could go and give him Nobbys Beach but that would prevent us bringing other players in to build the team. The really strong line is that we need to be offering players what we think they are worth to our club. If there is an ability to go beyond that to get them here or to stay, if they have a big influence on the team, we consider it. But we can’t go offering crazy amounts of money. If they get injured or they don’t perform, we never move forward as a club.”

Asked if the likely departure of Gagai, the club’s only current Origin player, would make it harder to attract elite players, Gidley said: “There is no doubt that good players want to play alongside good players. That is pretty clear. It won’t discourage us.”

Gidley highlighted the fact there were more than 200 NRL players off contract this season.

“Everyone is aware of position and the ability to strengthen our roster,” he said. “The market has been pretty hectic over the last month or two. A lot of clubs have their rosters locked down for the next two-to-three years. We are well positioned to see what opportunities present themselves.”

“It wasn’t that long ago, maybe six or seven years, when Souths were in a similar position and they were able to bring in a young Sam Burgess. Then in November circumstances allowed for Greg Inglis to come on the market and they were ready to pounce for him. If we get the right couple of players we can dramatically improve the performance of the team.”


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