For the third time this off-season the Canberra Raiders find themselves the rumoured destination of a big name. First it was Mitchell Moses. Then it was Shaun Johnson. Now the Raiders are potentially the landing spot for a disaffected Matt Dufty, fresh off his breakout year as a speedy custodian for the St George Dragons.
It seems like Dufty has been in negotiations with the Dragons since he signed his extension early in 2018. The young Dragon clearly thinks he is worth more money than the Dragons are willing to offer. And yet again the Raiders get to play an important part.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before (because if you read these pages often you have) but this is very much a long shot. We’ve referred to this (twice now) as the the ‘ridiculous rumour mill‘. Dufty wants more money. The Dragons aren’t sure he’s worth it. Dufty’s agent generates a bit of interest from the Raiders to get more money from the Dragons, and Bob’s your father’s brother.
As usual the quotes are unattributed, the interest theoretical. It’s the same story that led Johnson to be rumoured to be coming to Canberra despite the Raiders not being able to match the offers he could receive elsewhere. It’s what had Moses and Corey Norman coming to Canberra at various times. As we’ve pointed out before, it’s an almost annual tradition for the Raiders, and we get carried away more often than we should. A star wants more money, his agent uses Canberra as a plausible threat, so he gets more money from his preferred destination.
Sidebar: The ‘ridiculous rumour mill’ needs a better name. If you can think of a better name for when a star uses the Raiders to leverage more money from another club put it in the comments and i’ll use it from now on.
This also ignores where the Raiders actually do their recruiting. Canberra recruitment man Peter Mulholland does his work identifying talent that other clubs aren’t looking – be it in the union communities of New Zealand, amongst talented Pacific Islanders, or in the Super League. Rare is it that the Raiders will sign an established star in their prime. In fact the last time that happened was…..1986? Canberra is like the Oakland A’s in moneyball. They have to be able to see what other clubs can’t, because they can’t compete on money.
A look at the cap facts show how hard it is that for the Raiders to get Dufty. He’s contracted to the Dragons in 2019, which is good because the Green Machine don’t have a brass razoo spare next year. So Dufty’s appearance in the capital next year is unlikely unless the Dragons want to cover pretty much all his wage, which would be….weird.
So you’re thinking ‘what about backending the contract?’. Canberra actually has the majority of the list locked up through 2020, except for Jordan Rapana and Luke Bateman – who both are off contract at the end of 2019. Given Dufty wants more money, it seems the Raiders would have to make a decision about keeping Rapana if they want to get the Dragons custodian. Given the Raiders are currently trying to secure Rapana’s extension it seems they may have made their decision. Perhaps Dufty is the Raiders consolation price for losing Rapana, but that should depress fans, rather than excite them.
At a football level, taking on Dufty would represent a massive risk. Dufty has had one good year. His major strength is speed. He wouldn’t be the spakfilla that Wighton provides for the Raiders defence. He wouldn’t be the ‘second five-eighth’ that Wighton is for the Raiders. He’d be quick. Which would be great. But the Raiders don’t need points.
What’s more, bringing him on board would mean the Raiders would have to be sure that Wighton is going to be their starting five-eighth from now on, because there’s no back five that includes Dufty and Wighton. Given Wighton has only failed as a full-time six, and that Stuart has never developed a half…well, ever, it takes a big leap of faith (or a big risk) to assume that a Wighton transition would be a guaranteed success. You could end up with having two highly paid fullbacks and no five-eighths. Huzzah.
The reality of the situation is that as per usual the Raiders have the sad end of the stick. In all likelihood Dufty is simply going to stay at the Dragons. Contract negotiation by its nature is a high stakes game, and stranger things have happened. But the obstacles to Dufty’s arrival in Canberra are many, the incentives for him (or the Raiders) are few. There’s better fits for Dufty, with better ability to appropriately remunerate him.
As we’ve said before, it’s more likely than not that the side the Raiders will trot out in round one of 2019 is made up from players currently on their roster. And we’d all be better off if maybe we didn’t get our hopes up every time a budget rumour page mentions the Raiders.
Stay safe kids. It’s a long off-season.
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