This week rumours were reported in the Daily Telegraph that both the Wests Tigers and Melbourne Storm were interested in Jordan Rapana. Raiders social media immediately burst into flames. Surely Jordy isn’t about the leave again?
These rumours are part of a larger story. Josh Addo-Carr has asked to move back to Sydney after this season. He’s got another year on his Melbourne deal, so the Storm are (rightly) looking to make sure they can get back a player before they release him. They inquired about Tommy Talau and David Nofoaluma and were given a hard no. They then moved on to other names. Brent Naden from Penrith has also been rumoured, and now the swirling maelstrom of rugby league rumours has captured Rapana. The Tigers have also apparently inquired about Rapana, as a potential stop-gap if Addo-Carr doesn’t come to Leichardt.
I’ve no doubt the Storm and the Tigers are interested. Both could use Rapana in their system. For the Storm, it’s an easy replacement for the departure of Addo-Carr and Sulasi Vunivalu this coming offseason. For the Tigers they can pair him with the BJ Leilua in the hope he can bring out the best in the enigmatic (and high-priced centre). If I was the Tigers I wouldn’t be spending my precious cap space on older players – it’s hardly like they’re a winger away from contending – but then they just spent cap space on James Tamou so clearly they’re in the mood. Regardless their focus is Addo-Carr, who it seems inevitable will return there (the Storm have said they’ll let him go back to Sydney, and there’s no other suitors).
The major issue with all this is that no one really asked what Jordan thinks about this. Or rather they did, just before this became an issue. As reported by the The Canberra Times not two weeks ago, Rapana said about the current negotiations to stay in Canberra:
I want to stay here, I love it here. My wife’s from here. She’s ready to pop and I definitely believe I’ll finish up here. I’ve got unfinished business here as well in terms of winning a comp here. The boys that I’ve played here with I’ve played with for almost six or seven years.Reported in the Canberra Times 10 September
He also memorably told a media scrum in August that he was keen to stay in Canberra, saying:
Obviously I love it here in Canberra. This is where I want to be. [I] probably don’t have too much longer in my career so to finish up here would be ideal
The Raiders too are keen to keep Rapana, having already identified him and Sia Soliola as key parts of the team and the culture they are building in Canberra. It is interesting, particularly given the glut of young outside backs coming through. Even at 31 and potentially on the backend of his prime, the Green Machine consider Rapana as a critical part of the squad. Of course, these negotiations are clearly ongoing, as they are with Soliola. Don Furner only just wrapped up a deal with Josh Papalii last week, and Tom Starling the week before. He has a lot on his plate at the moment.
Money will always be an issue, as it is in any negotiation. This chatter could also have come from Rapana’s agent to the Telegraph as a mechanism to increase the urgency from the Green Machine and perhaps pry a few extra dollars out for Jordan. There’s no doubt he’s earned them. If the difference in money between what Rapana can get at thet Storm or the Tigers becomes too big he may leave. After all, the Milk let Nic Cotric go because the money became too steep. But at this stage there’s nothing to suggest an equilibrium won’t be found.
But negotiations aren’t quick, and rumours have many masters. Importantly though, all (relevant) parties want Jordan to stay in Canberra. We hope they get a deal done, and nothing in this rumour sways us from thinking they will.