The Waiting Game

BY DAN

It’s now approaching a fortnight since Canberra Raiders’ fans found out that Nic Cotric might be coming home. Since then news has leaked suggesting the Wests Tigers were bringing their war-chest to the party, muddying the waters as to whether Nic would be returning home. During this time people like the human prophylactic James Hooper have suggested he was heading to the Tigers, bringing Dean Ritchie (who initially reported that Cotric was going to Canberra) across to his side. And then more recently, Michelle Bishop of Channel 7 has suggested the Tigers are interested, but the Raiders are still ‘in front’.

These takes are usually based on information we don’t have access to. They’re talking to player managers, team sources, and mates in the news room and trying to put together a position. That doesn’t mean they’re right. More often than not they’re being fed by someone with an interest in certain information making its way into the public domain. We trust their judgement and critical thinking to work out what is useful, and what is loaded, and sift a truth from the detritus that remains. If this position of authority was demonstrated rather than assumed maybe it would be more trustworthy. Unfortunately we’re left with the broad equivalent of a drunk bro trying to tell us to buy 17th century Dutch Tulips pet rocks cryptocurrency. Whether they’re right or wrong is immaterial. It’s almost certain they’ve got where they are by a mix of secondary socialisation and dumb luck. They don’t show their work (your year 9 maths teacher would be unimpressed) and it means we’re left with assertions rather than insight. (My own unending array of missed predictions is on the record in these pages. Wrong on Hodgson to the Tigers. Wrong on Dufty to the Raiders. Wrong on life choices.)

Of course there are circumstances and structures we can look at that can provide better insight. A good place to start is acknowledging that the Tigers have a lot more cap-space than the Raiders, and are willing to cover the majority (if not all) of Cotric’s 2022 salary. Compared to the Milk wanting Canterbury to cover more than 150K of the 600k due to Nic in 2022, this obviously means that the incentive for the Dogs is for the Tigers to win this tete-e-tete. While the preference for Canterbury is clear, what hasn’t been clear from any discussions is Nic’s preference. The only time we were told what he wanted was the assertion in the initial reporting by Ritchie that Cotric wanted to come home to Canberra. After that, it’s been radio silence, with an emphasis on just how much money the Tigers have to offer, and the note that Cotric has bought a home in the shire (Sydney property being notoriously hard to move).

Of course, that’s irrelevant, at least in the short term. The Tigers can offer to cover more of his 2022 salary, but that doesn’t mean Cotric will get a red cent more. His deal is in place for the next two years, and the only way he’d be able to get more money out of the Tigers would be to sign an extension. This changes the nature of the discussion for Cotric – he’d be committing himself to the Tigers for a good chunk of his prime. More power to him for pursuing that path, and given their movements for 2023 suggest a rapidly improving roster (Daddy Sheens is at it again), but we haven’t heard from Cotric (or anyone) that this is his preferred path.

Despite this financial imbalance, a deal hasn’t been done yet. This could be because Cotric is knee-deep in a massive extension at the Tigers. But it could be that like most parties he’s playing the waiting game to see if either Canterbury, or the Raiders, move off their current negotiating positions. The short-term deal with the Tigers will be there in January if the stalemate cannot be broken, he can then make the choice about spending the next two years (or longer) at Leichardt.

This seems like the most likely scenario. The Raiders are being very cagey about their cap for the next few years, and until Josh Hodgson’s deal comes off the cap it seems they’ve not got much capacity to move off their position. Time can help with that – each week the Dogs are paying more of his 2022 salary. But to get to more than 150k it would take not having Cotric at the side until well into February (based on some very poor maths my year 9 teacher would similarly be unimpressed with). Cotric is a plug and play player in that he knows the Canberra system, and what Sticky would expect of him. But it would benefit the Milk much more if a deal can get done before then – particularly if new Assistant Coach Mick Crawley is bringing back more complex attacking structures this season. It seems unlikely that the Bulldogs will commit more money to moving Nic out the door, particularly while the Tigers are offering to cover pretty much the whole deal. So while the Green Machine wait they’ll be risking Cotric moving anyway.

So now we can see the cause of the stand-off. Everyone is looking at Canberra and wondering what they can do to bring Cotric home. The Raiders have a limited array of options to move off their current deal. Meanwhile the Tigers are hoping it all gets too frustrating for Cotric, and he seeks certainty rather than purgatory. This small delay may only get longer.

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