A spanner was thrown in the Cotric to Canberra momentum when James Hooper revealed that the Wests Tigers, war-chest and all, had entered the chat to woo the young winger to Leichardt.
The case is straightforward. Wests have bucket-loads of un-spent cap space. They have nothing but opportunity for anyone that wants to take it. The only set positions they should have over the coming years is Adam Doueihi, Daine Laurie and from 2023, Isaiah Papali’i. Nic Cotric could name his position. It was only a matter of time before they got involved. And thanks to James Hooper for revealing this breaking news.
Except that we already knew that. It was reported by Dean Ritchie last week in The Daily Telegraph. The Tigers were among other teams (including Parramatta, the Dolphins, and the Warriors) as potential homes for Nic. As Ritchie pointed out:
The Tigers have shown an interest in Cotric, but the player appears hesitant about remaining in SydneyDean Ritchie last week
At the time the mail from Ritchie was that if Cotric was to leave the Dogs, his priority would be Canberra. It’s worth noting, because Hooper’s reporting makes no mention of a change of mind from Cotric, but instead quotes Tigers football boss (and Green Machine god) Tim Sheens saying:
It’s certainly nowhere near being done but we’ve met with the lad and Madge likes what he could add to the roster. We’re not the only club at the table so we’ll just have to let it take its course and see how it plays out.Tim Sheens to James Hooper
So to recap. Cotric is being pushed out at the Dogs for cap reasons. He would prefer to go to Canberra, but he also met with the Tigers. He’s hesistant about staying in Sydney, but he also owns a house there (in Sutherland Shire, just a quick hour-long drive from Leichardt oval).
From what has been reported it hardly feels like a seismic shift, but rather part of the on-going dance. There’s no indication in the reporting that Cotric has changed his mind about wanting to leave Sydney. There’s no report of him being keen on a shift to the Tigers. Just that the Tigers have cash, and Canberra don’t. That’s hard to dispute.
Now of course hesitancy can be overcome by bucketloads of cash. No doubt Cotric is brazenly aware of that fact; leaving the Raiders for the Dogs over what amounted to 50K is probably seared in his brain as maybe not the best decision. But 50K and a few hundred are very different propositions, and I’ve no doubt Cotric could be convinced to stay in Sydney if the price was right.
One might wonder if this is a case of the Raider Raise – the case of Cotric using the Raiders to get a bigger deal out of the Tigers. It’s definitely possible, but feels imperfect to me. If Cotric wanted a dump-truck of cash from Wests all he needed to do was wink and smile at them. Canberra’s funds were always going to be limited, and only about making sure he earns his current contract. If this was about money, it was the Tigers all the time, and there’s little else to talk about. But from Ritchie’s reporting it wasn’t. The presence of a discussion means money isn’t the matter, as yet (although this could explain the public radio silence from the Milk).
Instead a more convincing explanation to me is that the game is playing in reverse. The Tigers are playing the role of Canberra, back-up honeypot to a player manager (Sam Ayoub) trying to expedite a process where two other teams are in a standoff. Ayoub may be trying to create urgency on the part of the Raiders, and the Tigers and James Hooper are helping. It’s not a game the Milk need to get into. Nic is a nice to have, rather than a necessity. They can ill-afford to break the bank to get him when they have the talent they have waiting in the wings. Patience is a virtue and belief in Harley Smith-Shields, Xavier Savage and Bailey Simonsson should overwhelm any interest to mortgage their future on Cotric. But they can find it in their hearts to accept the Dogs existing offer of covering 150k in 2022. It will require them making other decisions though (see Hodgson, Josh).
Of course the nature of these opaque manoeuvres mean we don’t really know. Comparing reporting from Hooper and Ritchie for accuracy feels like looking at two wheel-less bikes and wondering which one will get you to your destination. If either do, it’s more to do with luck and coincidence than intent. The only thing one can do in a situation like this is wait. There’s a man making a decision about his future.