On Saturday James Hooper reported at FoxSports that Jordan Rapana was considering a return to the NRL in 2021. He reported that only two teams were serious players: the Wests Tigers and the Canberra Raiders. Then the Daily Telegraph reported Rapana would be back with the Raiders for 2020, And was supported by NRL.com, who reported he’s returning on a two-year deal. There’s a lot of mess here as per usual; so let’s parse what we have.
Hooper’s report has several take-always. Most notably differing from the Telegraph, Hooper believes Rapana’s return has been ruled out for 2020. That would be a shame. As we’ve said before, there’s real questions to their consistency regarding people who leave the game. It would also be a shame for Rapana, who doesn’t get paid in Japan, and doesn’t get paid in Australia.
Secondly, the moving feast of who (apart from Canberra) might be interested in Rapana’s services suggests that interest outside the Raiders might be luke-warm. First it was Canberra and the Bulldogs (based on his relationship with Dean Pay), now it’s the Milk and Wests (based on his relationship with Madge McGuire in the New Zealand set up).
The Canterbury suggestion struck me as a possibility at the time. They likely could offer Rapana more money, which at this stage of his career would be of interest to Jordy – particularly given how he gave up prime earning years. The Wests version is more confusing, because, as reported by Hooper, it would require the Tigers getting rid of Josh Reynolds. Reynolds’ massive contract (upwards of 900k) is not befitting his output, and if he was to go back to the Dogs, the Tigers would still be paying a massive chunk of his salary. Putting their precious cap space into an ageing winger would suggest the Tigers would have to think the major gap between them and contender-ship is Rapana, which given the relative weakness of their roster, wouldn’t make much sense. But hey, it’s the Tigers.
This at best circumstantial interest suggests that their might not actually be other suitors, which lends credence to the NRL.com/Telegraph position. We’ve seen this occur before when ‘interest’ from Canberra is used as an excuse to get more money out of other teams. We’ve called it ‘the Raider Raise’ (copyright the great Jack Cronin). It’s rare to see it in reverse and I don’t think Rapana is seeking to drive up his price in Canberra; more likely is that the media has little else footy-related to talk about, and Hooper is prone to talking out his ass.
It seems almost certain the Raiders remain in the lead to returning Jordy to Canberra. Rapana’s family is ensconced in Canberra and it seems it would be really hard to move them around for likely a short-term contract. Rapana has been whittling away lock down in Canberra. Any extra money Rapana might get in Sydney would be weighed against the social benefit of being near his family.
I suspect the Raiders would be better place to offer Jordy a bit more in the off-season than they could right now – god knows what’s going to happen with wages over the near future, but a bit of time to plan for Rapana to be a part of the side would open up some options for the Milk. Nic Cotric is the big priority in the near future, though this is apparently as good as done. Siliva Havili, Sia Soliola and Michael Oldfield are all crucial parts of the squad that Canberra would want to retain. After that, there’s a range of players that the Raiders would likely let go if it meant they could bridge the gap to bring Rapana in. Luke Bateman, JJ Colllins, Jack Murchie, Tom Starling, Seb Kris and Matt Frawley are all important members of the squad, but in my mind Rapana would be a priority over them.
But there’s an obstacle to returning Rapana for 2020 that’s not addressed in any of these reports. The NRL has been steadfastly of the position that Rapana was unable to return in 2020. It’s not clear what’s changed about that. There’s been no official announcement that he could return, nor has their been any confirmation from the Green Machine that the Raiders have sought a change to the decision made in 2019. I have no doubt they are exploring the possibility – as we’ve said before, Rapana would provide invaluable depth to cover for Curtis Scott, and would push Simonsson for a starting spot if Scott is free to play after his hearing in June.
If Rapana is going to be back in 2020, we’ll likely find out very early on Monday. It’s hardly like there’s time to spare. But even those these reports give differing accounts of the same issue, they both point in one direction. There may not be a long time before Jordy is back in green.