Since last week there’s been a lull in the conversation around Josh Hodgson’s inevitable and impending departure. A few sticking points have been put forward, but it doesn’t appear to me that there is going to be an 11th hour reprieve. Josh Hodgson is still leaving.
Since the announcement Thursday afternoon we’ve been waiting for the final nail to be hammered. As Peter Mulholland told David Polkinghorne from the Canberra Times:
Tim Sheens just wants to get his head across the whole thing so it’s probably on a little bit of a time delay at the moment until he gets his head around their salary cap situation, and he’s got to meet with Maguire over Zoom
Several writers have indicated that the deal has hit an administrative road-block with the ousting of now former Tigers General Manager Adam Hartigan. This, in combination with the failure – as yet – to reach agreement on how much of Hodgson’s 2022 salary the Raiders will pay, has reputedly slowed a deal. Rumours of Api Koroisau also being forced out at the Panthers have also created an extra variable that didn’t exist when the discussions opened last week.
It seems more convenient than anything that Hartigan’s departure is being used as an excuse. The reporting of this deal initially pointed out that from a Tigers perspective, it was being driven by the Tigers incoming boss of football, the father of Canberra, Tim Sheens. Sheens was reportedly keen on Hodgson’s experience and leadership over a sometimes rudderless team. Navigating Wests’ sometimes combative internal structures is hard, and without a general manager pushing the negotiations along, it’s likely to slow. But the fact the new boss wants this to happen should be enough impetus to keep it moving.
A key part of this deal is finding a sweet spot that both sides can agree to, specifically how much Canberra are going to kick in. In a vacuum one might think the Raiders were holding leverage here. They don’t have to let Hodgson leave, so why would they need to pay any of the deal? Unfortunately it’s not hard to see that the Milk have wanted Hodgson gone since the debacle of May. The Tigers may have had their organisational issues in recent times, but they’re not blind to Sticky’s desire for clear air. The quote above from Mulholland shows a standard negotiating tactic – a slight step back, noting your concerns about money, and hoping your negotiating-partner bridges the gap.
Sidebar: Also, unconfirmable but my conspiracy brain has also wondered if the reason a Starling deal has been delayed is in wait of Hodgson’s departure. I’m not sure if it’s to provide a cash sweetener, or to give Starling the succour that the spot is his no matter what next year, but maybe it’s part of it.
Api Koroisau being potentially an option for the Tigers is noteworthy. He’s younger than Hodgson, likely cheaper, and coming off a couple of seasons with the Panthers in which he’s established himself as one of the elite rakes in the competition, won a premiership and played origin. I suspect he may even be on a more team friendly deal than Hodgson. In short, he may be a better deal. But that’s the rub for Wests. A bird in the hand and all that. Assuming they’re keen to upgrade at hooker, the certainty of a Hodgson deal will likely trump the hope of an Api deal. Indeed it’s hard not to see his evocation as part of the negotiations. Oh you don’t want to chip in? We can get Api for two-thirds of what Hodgson would cost us. Be cool.
It’s a high stakes game of poker played between two mid-range players that we all get to watch. But both teams still seem to have the same goal – for Josh Hodgson to be at the Tigers next year.