The Battle for Tapine


It begins.

Joseph Tapine is able to negotiate a new deal starting 2024 from 1 November this year. Given his form it would be of no surprise that teams are interested, which is exactly what The Daily Telegraph is reporting. Do the Raiders have a hope in keeping him?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Joe Tapine has been really good lately. As good as any Josh Papalii season of recent vintage. He’s been the alpha and omega, taking hard runs for offloads, using power or quick feet in the line depending on what is offered. Even using an improved (or revealed) passing ability to create and connect. For those of us who sat on Tapine island throughout his career, it’s everything we thought he could be and more. It’s two-thirds of the way through the season and he’s 30 metres a game better than his previous best. He leads the league in post contact metres, practically equalled his career high in that category and it’s only goddamn July. He’s fifth in the competition in offloads and metres. He’s got the most metres of any forward this season. More than Jason Taumalolo. More than Tino Fa’asuamaleuai,. More than any other big name prop you can think of.

And he’s done it all with a career low rate of missed tackles, despite having made the second most tackles of any Raider so far this year. If there was a knock on Tapine in the past it was that he could get taken advantage of in defence when he was fatigued (see the Sam Verrills try in the 2019 grand final). Well he’s eliminated that this season, and is even covering for the mistakes of others in a way that I would have associated more with players renowned for their motor. Witness the effort to get back on David Klemmer’s kick the other day. Tapine – a middle forward who had already played 50 odd minutes – beat a host of other Raiders back to save the day.

Put simply this is the kind of player you can structure a forward pack around. So it should be no surprise that teams are interested in him, as his manager noted:

Every club has been ringing me saying they want to talk to me. They’re coming from everywhere. We haven’t once gone to the market. They are chasing me. I can understand why.

Tapine’s manager according to the Daily Telegraph

It’s no surprise Tapine’s manager has said this for the above reasons. It mirrors what he said earlier in the year when he told us all that Joey Taps wanted desperately to extend his time in Canberra.

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 in February.

As we noted then, his language used quick feet to skirt around the supposed tension of 2021 while emphasising the urgency that the Raiders should feel to make a deal.

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 in February

So as we can see, Tapine’s management has form. They are clearly trying to give the Raiders a sense of urgency in order to get a big money deal as soon as possible for the young man.

This presents a challenge for the Milk. They likely desperately want to keep Tapine – rightly so. He’s a rare talent, is in his prime, and is as good as any middle in the competition. Players like these don’t fall into Canberra’s lap via free-agency, so when the player is on the team and ready to sign (apparently) then they need to get a deal done.

The problem for the Milk is how to manage what that deal is. Tapine’s form is otherworldly, and it’s hard to know how long he can keep it up. Any deal will take him well into his 30s. 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.

So if the Raiders are able to keep him, they’ll likely be paying 2022 money for more ‘normal’ production. It’s not an argument against signing him. As we noted players of Tapine’s ability do not just fall into Canberra’s lap often, but it’s something to be aware of. The Milk have put a lot of money into paying for past production (see Croker and Whitehead). This would likely be a less egregious example, and there’s a tax they’ll have to pay to keep him out of the shade of the Sombrero, but there’s a cost v expectations ratio that they need to be aware of. They can mitigate this by keeping the extension at two years rather than going longer. This will allow them to ensure the next deal reflects his performance over 2023 and 2024 rather than his god-like walk through 2022.

I think they make a deal in the end. This noise is just his manager making sure he gets the most value possible. The Raiders have arguably paid full value (or even overs) for Tapine since they picked him up from the Knights roster. This would be a continuation of that tradition.

But the sharks are circling. This is unlikely to be resolved quickly. While Tapine is playing at such an elite level, any team with a bit of cap space will be in Tapine’s management’s ear to make sure he knows he’s got options if the Raiders don’t come with the money. They should do so, even if it means a slightly less efficient deal. Players like Joe don’t come to Canberra on their own.

Do us a solid and like our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or share this on social media. My sister met a dude named Joe who said nice things about me to her and it made my day. Don’t hesitate to send us feedback or comment below if you think we are stupid. Or if we’re not.


  1. A well written article. Can we please refrain from referring to them as player managers but rather commission agents because that is all they are. This is why the NRL has been trying to clean up this mess of commission agents who do more damage to the game long term through their short sighted attitude towards the game. There have been many examples written about where these commission agents have a bigger rap sheet off the field than the players that they represent. Unfortunately this type of behaviour is fuelled by the lazy journalists who rely on their confidential information being passed on to them anonymously. To the players, there will be more opportunities on field and off field long term if they believe in the NRL management. And to Joe Tapine if you read this. I have been proud to be a member of the Raiders and watch your performance week in week out this year. All that you represent on the field is what we want as a club member. Should you decide your future is elsewhere o hope that is your choice based on information that you have sourced yourself and not used as a pawn by an agent to make more money for himself. You have given your best, just like we gave you the best opportunity at a young age when others wouldn’t.


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