Stacked Dominoes

BY DAN

When last week’s bombshell dropped – that Nic Cotric might be coming home – we suggested that Bailey Simonsson’s time in Canberra might be coming to an end. What was revealed was a complex set of interrelated movements that could determine whether the Raiders hierarchy gets what they want.

The Raiders seem pretty keen to get Cotric on board. I say ‘seem’ because they haven’t spoken publicly on the matter, as thy haven’t on many matters lately (like, for example, Josh Hodgson’s ongoing situation). It’s hardly a surprise that getting an elite winger on the cheap would pique a club’s interest, so I think it’s safe to say Canberra are looking to bring Nic home.

The Telegraph reported the Bulldogs were happy to kick in as much as $150k of Cotric’s 2022 salary; which is more than reasonable. It would more than cover the rumoured $50k difference between Cotric’s desires and the Raider’s offer in early 2020, making Cotric cheaper for the Milk than he would have been if he’d stayed at home all the time. What a world. But at this stage the suggestion is that this amount isn’t enough to get the Raiders under the cap. A shiny doubloon for the first person that hears ‘unnamed sources close to the situation say the deals off’. Like other situations we’ve referenced lately, once you start talking money it usually means a deal will get done one way or another, most likely through patience, but in this case also from external decisions.

Tied to this deal now is the movement of Simonsson to Parramatta (kudos to those handsome and intelligent people that saw that coming). I think it’s good news for Bailey particularly in terms of opportunity for playing time. We’ll have more on this if it eventuates. Perhaps indicative of the tightness of the Raiders cap (or of the speculative nature of the reporting) Bailey’s likely departure doesn’t seem to cut the mustard cap wise in bringing Cotric to Canberra. Doing a bit of back of the napkin maths, it suggests that Simonsson + 150K ≠ Cotric. Given Cotric is on 600k that’s not entirely surprising, but it does tell us the Green Machine are operating with little cap space.

Which is fine if Cotric was any other player. The Raiders could play the waiting game, let the Dogs pay him through January and make the deal close to the season, meaning Canterbury have covered two months of his full salary (about 100k gross), see if they still chip in a bit, and Bob’s your father’s brother. But they’re unlikely to be alone in trying to make a deal for Cotric. Last week’s reporting indicated a cavalcade of teams who were interested in getting the Tuggeranong tyro. Other teams won’t be so precious about cap space, and while they won’t be home, they might have other charms (I hear the Gold Coast is lovely this time of the year).

Unlike other roster decisions, it’s unlikely the Raiders can sit tight and hope for matters to resolve themselves. There’s a tightrope the Milk are walking here. They want to get Cotric for as little as possible (i.e by only losing Simonsson). They also are unlikely to want to miss out on the chance to pick up an elite asset on the cheap (this is how we roll, after all). But if story that they can’t budge is true (and not just negotiation tactics designed to take advantage of a side overcommitted to 2023) then they’ll need to find more money before the rest of the league gets wise.

Of course in addition to Simonsson they could also find another player to move on to free up space. The obvious place that Canberra can find space is in finalising a Hodgson deal with the Tigers. Even though they would like to get out of the full 750k, covering everything north of the purported $500k per year deal would free up enough to cover Cotric easily. I’m not a fan of doing this, but the Milk have been clear about where they are headed (both for Cotric, and with Hodgson). This may be the impetus they need to bend. Of course there’s another part of that story, and the Knights pursuit of Luke Brooks (noise of which appears to have subsided – again a discussion over freight) could be another domino that starts a procession, opening up some money for the Tigers to make up more of the gap and bring Hodgson on board.

Other players that could be moved early include whomever out of Coreys Horsburgh and Harawira-Naera, or potentially Ryan Sutton. These would all depend on negotiations for extensions identified as a priority by the club falling apart. It’s not that they won’t, and we’ve all got half an eye on Horsburgh and the Dolphins (they know he exists right?), but the timing doesn’t feel right. Cotric will be long gone to a new home before the Raiders have a chance to finalise these players’ positions one way or another.

It’s a watching brief all round. December is about promise and new beginnings in the NRL. It could be just that for Cotric and Simonsson, and god knows who else. The dominoes are stacked. We’re just waiting for one to fall.

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