With reports circulating that English prop Gareth Hock is about to pull out of his deal with the Parramatta Eels, two questions come to mind:
1) Why do players sign for clubs before they are genuinely committed?
2) What’s the point of signing a contract if you can just back out of it later?
Earlier in the season Raider’s star Josh Papalii signed a deal to join the Eels for the 2014 season, only to back out of the deal weeks later. Canberra were stated as ‘not giving up on retaining Papalii’ even weeks after the deal has been signed and announced.
For mine, once the Eels deal was signed, it was just that, a deal. NRL states that a player has up until round 13 to change his mind to remain at his club even after signing a contract with another club.
Why sign a contract if there’s a chance of changing your mind? Surely a club should not be allowed to get into a player’s head after he has signed elsewhere.
I understand circumstances change and thus closing the round 13 loophole will likely never happen. Personal issues can arise and players need to be protected, but what about the clubs effected?
The Eels are now 2 gun forwards down through no fault of their own. Are they entitled to compensation, or is it simply tough luck Parra?
What is stopping players from signing contracts elsewhere only to use it as a bargaining tool to increase an offer from their current club?
There is no suggestion of foul play in either previously mentioned case but there is no doubt that the Eels have been hard done by.
They have based other recruitment and retention decisions on what they thought were done deals. They dropped out of the race to sign Joel Thompson after the capture of Papalii. Of course Joel may have signed for the Dragons either way but the Eels were denied a shot they may have placed more effort in had they not based decisions on thoughts they had signed Papalii.
No doubt the majority will think, ‘who cares? It’s only Parra’ and you certainly won’t see my crying any tears over these developments but imagine if your club signed and announced a player, dropped out of talks with others players, perhaps chosen not to re-sign a player due to having recruited another only for that signing to pull out of the agreed deal?
Parra fans have every right to feel aggrieved. The club has no right to stand in the way of the Papalii backflip and although they may legally be able to block Hock’s expected decision to renege on his deal, what club would force a player who has publically stated his desire not to join the club to do just that. It’s obvious Hock’s mind is elsewhere, thus even if Parra did force him to honour his deal, he may not be 100% committed.
My suggestion is to close the Round 13 loophole. The player should have his mind made up when he signs the contract. Clubs should not be allowed to beat the offer on the table once a contract is signed. If a player chooses to renege on a deal then it is up to the player and the clubs to work it out.
Parra can then hold their ground and be paid compensation or at least given a chance to speak to another player in exchange for releasing Papalii back to the Raiders.
Obviously no club is going to fight over a player who has expressed his desire to play elsewhere but at least they’d be given a chance to gain something from a situation they’d otherwise be left with nothing other than frustration.
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