If you believe Joe Tapine’s management, the Raiders forward is so happy in Canberra he wants to be here even longer. Beyond the two-years currently left on his deal, he wants another two years. Man the Brodburger must be hitting right.
Call it a surprise outcome of the star forward’s stellar performance on the weekend. He was powerful, agile and damaging in almost every touch. He stat line was so stuffed it could have been me leaving Maccas. 122 metres on the ground, 48 post contact metres, a try, a try-assist, and seven (7!) tackle breaks. More media-favoured forwards were outplayed by Tapine, and frankly it’s gotten everyone a bit excited. Me, you, and none less than Tapine’s manager, who told the Daily Telegraph:
Joseph has never ever expressed a desire to me that he wanted to leave. I actually want to talk to Donny about an extension.Tapine’s manager to the Daily Telegraph.
It’s a little surprising, because a more common feeling over 2021 was that Tapine’s time in Canberra was precarious (as his manager acknowledges there in cultivated and careful language). There has always been scurrilous rumours that he wanted out, and it felt more than that when his partner was expressing her opinions about Sticky’s rotations. But now he wants to stay even longer! Huzzah!
Tapine’s manager was keen to make sure the Raiders felt the urgency to come to the table.
I get expressions of interest all the time from around the traps. They all ring and say ‘how’s he going, keep us in mind if he would like a change.Tapine’s manager to the Daily Telegraph.
This is an intriguing situation. Most estimates of Tapine’s wage put it around 600k, which I suspect is north of what he’d get elsewhere. He is a brilliant forward, and with Josh Papalii he gives the Green Machine a rare tandem of props that can be good no matter what Peter V’Landys does to the game. At his best Tapine is worth every cent of that 600k, able to beat bigger players in the middle with his agility and power, and still capable of getting outside an edge defender. Most will remember his try against the Roosters in the semi as a perfect example of this. But while the All-Stars game is a good start to suggesting he’s still at his best, it remains an exhibition match worth precisely zero points on the competition ladder. Using this as a negotiating baseline wouldn’t be a situation of strength for the Milk.
Tapine is arguably at his peak now, and seeking to do a deal that would take him well beyond his prime. He’s 27 now (turning 28 in May) and if he did sign an extension for two years beyond his current deal, it would take him to 32. It’s worth noting this work from the always excellent Rugby League Eye Test, that shows that middle forwards tend to reach their ‘prime’ between 25 and 27, and begin to drop off performance wise once they turn 30.
I’d argue Tapine started to crack his potential in 2019 and 2020. 2021 wasn’t great off the field, but he still managed to average near 120m a game, just a few metres a game less than his career best 125m per game in 2020. Tapine would be negotiating a deal for the two years his performance is likely to drop off the most while still in his prime. It’s pretty smart from his management. This doesn’t mean a deal shouldn’t be done, but rather the Raiders need to be aware of the state of play they’d be entering into.
The Raiders have firsthand experience as to what this can look like in this in the Croker and Whitehead deals. Canberra need to be circumspect about extending players before their current deal is even approaching it’s end. In both circumstances the roles (and relative health) of these players have changed dramatically before they even reached the extension. That doesn’t mean the deals themselves were a mistake, but rather that they are inefficient spends compared to what may have been available on the open market. It almost impossible to land a deal that’s fair two year out from it’s starting. Someone has to wear the inefficiency, and when the player is negotiating from strength like this, it’s the club’s cap.
But there’s no doubt that a conversation needs to be started. A deal doesn’t need to be done right away, but the Milk should heed Tapine’s manager’s warning about the desire elsewhere. It’s both a threat and a statement of fact. He is very good, and would be valued elsewhere, just not to the financial extent that he is by Canberra. Managed poorly this negotiation could be bread crumbs that lead to worse things. And the last thing 2022 needs is rumours surrounding the club as the vultures circle.
How much, and how far in advance, are questions that need to be treated seriously before the Milk get too excited about a long-term deal. It’s a difficult situation, but good news on the whole. Joe Tapine, one of the Raiders best players, someone capable of dominating the very best in the competition, wants to stay in Canberra. Here’s hoping they find a way to make a deal.
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