Penrith Panthers fullback Matt Moylan is off contract at the end of the 2017 season, and while media outlets turned a nothing comment from Moylan into the headline “Penrith Panthers’ star Matt Moylan to test NRL free agency in 2017“, it did make me think about the big decision that will need to be made by both Moylan himself, and the Penrith Panthers as they look to continue improving the club.
James Tedesco, Darius Boyd, Ben Barba, Josh Dugan and Tom Trbojevic are all off contract at the end of the 2017. That is a fair list of players who can play fullback.
Moylan will be 26 years old as he enters the 2018 season, and while he has shown glimpses of magic while playing for the Panthers, it is a stretch to suggest that he deserves superstar money. There will be a lot of people that will want the Panthers to wrap Moylan up long term, but do you really want to make him the Panthers highest paid player for the next 3-4 season, taking him through to 28-29, when we still don’t know how good he really is?
With a player like James Tedesco, who is only 23 years old, you know what you’re getting. Tedesco is a game breaker of the highest caliber. If he doesn’t improve any further you still end up with one of the top attacking players in the game. Moylan isn’t as easy to assess. While he does show that he can read a defensive line well and has the ability to put team mates into space, you still get the feeling that Moylan may have not got anywhere near his potential just yet.
How do you judge a player like that?
If Moylan doesn’t get any better from where he is right now, he is a handy player. He can do things that get you in a better position to win games. He isn’t a superstar right now though. Do you pay Moylan for the player he is right now, or the player you think he can become?
Some people occasionally compare him to Darren Lockyer in the way he plays. I tend to think that is absolutely crazy, and quite honestly, completely unfair! Lockyer is one of the most consistent players I have ever seen play the game. He was one of the top players in pretty much every single game he played for well over a decade, and that doesn’t matter what level he was playing at. Lockyer was a silky smooth runner, a very good athlete, and he just also happen to be one of the best of all time in terms of his instinct for the game, his timing and, on top of all of that, he had more heart than most entire team lineups combined.
If you are half as good as Darren Lockyer you could have a very good 300 game career. If Matt Moylan is half as good as a Darren Lockyer, you keep him at your club.
How much do you pay him though?
There will be clubs out there that are desperate to attract talent, and in some cases, they will be willing to pay a hell of a lot of money to attract that talent. If you are the coach of a struggling club that has little to no attacking firepower, your job is on the line and you don’t know how much longer you will be around, wouldn’t you consider taking a punt on a young bloke that potentially become a very, very good player?
The other thing to consider is that this next contract will likely span the very best years of Moylan’s career. The time for him to cash in one his Rugby League career is right now. Moylan’s manager will be looking for top dollar, and the chances are that his advice will be to take the most money on offer no matter where that money comes from.
So you have a player that wants the biggest contract of his career, a club that has an eye on other youngsters it needs to hold onto, a few top of the line players that are the foundation of the team now, and who will want to keep Moylan, but not at any price…and a fan base that could be upset if Moylan leave but who could also be upset if they feel the club pay too much to keep him.
Good luck with that decision!
I tend to think that the Panthers will hold onto Moylan. Sure there are some intriguing alternatives out there, but I think when Moylan weighs up the offers that come in from other clubs he will be happy with what the Panthers are offering him.
Strange things happen in Rugby League though, and as we have seen with others players, you can never predict how a players career will turn out of where that player will end up.
For Moylan and the Penrith Panthers, there are a lot of questions to be answered over the next year or so. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out.