You may have seen a little tidbit of a smidge of a rumour recently doing the rounds that Parramatta are after Bailey Simonsson. The Raiders said they’re aware of the interest. Is Bailey on the trade block? It’s complicated.
It’s the kind of story that may send shivers up the spine of the Canberra fanbase. Bailey has had a injury-filled last two years, but remains a vital part of the Milk’s backline. His versatility is matched by his talent, and if recent social media posts are anything to go by, his speed is also elite. The Raiders likely have little interest in him leaving. Jordan Rapana is getting older, and while Xavier Savage is an unquestionable talent, there’s still plenty of things to work on before he’s a sure thing. Bailey is a capable backup for Charnze too, meaning that the Raiders don’t need to do anything frightfully stupid like signing a backup like Caleb Aekins or Matt Dufty.
But this yarn isn’t a simple as presented. This story presents Parramatta’s interest at face value, but leaves out important context that places it well within the cosmic dance that is free agency negotiation.
You see Parramatta are busy trying to get a horde of stars to fit under a cap. Those players are trying to make sure they make the best of their current leverage. Maika Sivo is one of those players, and as of 1 November he was on the market so to speak. Not for 2022, but for 2023. In response to a tight situation, rumours have suddenly emerged that Sivo may leave for union. It’s like clockwork for Sivo. Earlier this year he reportedly signed an extension while turning down “hundreds of thousands” of French rugby union money. He did the same in 2019.
Perhaps Bailey has become the Eels retort. Like any good bartering experience, they need to be able to plausibly say they have other options. Here’s a quality first grader who can play multiple positions across the back. Of course he doesn’t run with the same power as Sivo, but he offers many other things that the Fijian doesn’t. If Sivo is going to leave for that union cash, then Simonsson would do a job, and probably cheaper too. But really, it’s just a name. Bailey’s departure is a step away from a step away from a step. The Eels don’t want Sivo to leave. They just don’t want to pay him so much it means they are having to choose between keeping him and Reed Mahoney. Or Junior Paulo. Or Isaiah Papali’i. It’s just negotiation. Bailey is just a bargaining chip for a negotiation he has nothing to do with.
Why specifically Bailey then? Surely there are plenty of talented footy players in similar situations that could be plausibly coaxed to one of the biggest markets in the game for more game time (if not more money)? I haven’t checked, but the answer is yes. The key here is to remember the question isn’t so much ‘why Bailey’ but rather who told the journalist this fact.
Here’s the fun bit. There’s potential this option wasn’t initiated by the Eels, but rather Bailey’s management as a shot across Canberra’s bow. How are they involved? Bailey and Maika are represented by the same management company – the good people over at Pacific Sports Management. You can check their list of players here if you would like. It could be a hint from Pacific Sports Management that one of an expanding number of Raiders they manage (Peter Hola and Jamal Fogarty have been added to the list with Bailey this off-season) is hot property, and by speculative extrapolation, perhaps a certain coach should take that into account when thinking about his first choice backline next year.
So rather than for being for consumption as part of the Sivo negotiation, it’s could be Pacific Sports Management using an existing story to push another client. If Bailey isn’t given the time he deserves next year, his management could be placing in both Canberra and Parramatta’s minds the possibility he could work at the Eels. It’s in the same vein as “Maika might leave for union” except Union is Parramatta and Maika is Bailey and you’re you and I’m me.
It’s also possible (maybe probable) that the Eels leaked that information, simultaneously as a bargaining tactic but also as a message to Pacific Sports Management. “Hey we get you want to play hardball for your client, and we’ll do the same for the club, but just so you know we’re working with you”. It reminds me of negotiation between political factions – if we can’t take care of you here, we’ll make sure it happens elsewhere. Rugby league is a wondrous thing.
The pawn in all this is Simonsson. After two injury interrupted seasons he’ll no doubt be looking to shore up his position as a starter in 2022. There’s plenty of competition for this spot and but he’s good enough to be playing first grade.
It seems someone is just wanting to make sure we’re all aware of that fact.