At last, some good news.
The Canberra Raiders finally got some good news when David Riccio told Triple M that Joe Tapine is getting close to finalising a deal to keep him at Canberra for four more years after his current deal. As Riccio told Triple M:
I understand Joey Tapine’s management will fly to Canberra next week for high-level talks in relation to a contract extension for Tapine to stay at the Raiders. I’m expecting around a four-year deal here…Riccio on Triple M
It’s expected the deal would be ‘over $3m’ which is around 750K a year. It would start in 2024, meaning that it would end when he’s 34. It’s a lot, but it’s not even approaching what the absolute highest paid players at his position are getting. So the value is actually not that bad, if the deal lands.
It’s good to see that Tapine’s is potentially staying. As we noted earlier in the week he’s been near enough to perfect this season.
As you may be aware, this season, Joe Tapine has played about as well as a prop forward can. 160 odd metres a game, the best part of 70 post contact. A list of tackle-breaks so long bodies are strewn in his wake like someone’s uncle had too many and joined the kids game at the BBQ. Even his defence has been near perfect, and he’s chipped in with try-assists, try-savers and even just plain old steak and kidney tries.Some handsome fella
While it’s a step up from previous season, the way he speaks about his relationship with Coach Stuart, and his approach to the game, there’s every reason to think that the Raiders will get full value on the front of this deal. There’s been new bows added to his game in 2022, such as his passing, which should help provide for better production as his body faces the inevitable battle with time.
It’s also a good deal for the future leadership of the club. Elliott Whitehead is not in the best form, and is often playing less minutes than Tapine these days. Joey has made no bones about his interest in a leadership role at the club, and this kind of deal would cement him as a club leader over the next couple of years. He would be a club leader, but he’d also play an important role in helping the transition to first grade of a host of young forwards, including Ata Mariota, Harry Rushton and Trey Mooney.
It’s not finalised, but it’s good to see that there is progress, particularly if it involves getting something done before Taps hits the open market on 1 November. While 750k is steep, there would always be a Titans or a Tigers with money to burn and nothing to lose. Stomping on that fire before it starts burning is a good situation for the Raiders, while ensuring that Tapine is handily rewarded for his performance over the last few years.
The major risk is a mistake the Raiders have made time immemorial. Like with the Whitehead, Croker, and Papalii deals, the likelihood is that the last few years of this deal won’t be as efficient a use of the salary cap as we would have hoped. We’ve noted this everytime we’ve written about this deal, but middle forwards tend to fall off a cliff after age 30, as evidence by the always excellent work over at The Rugby League Eye Test. The big guys tend to peak between 25 and 27, and then really drop off after 30.
As we said before, they’ll be paying peak money for a play who’s production will unlikely reach this point ever again.
It’s not an argument against signing him. Canberra has to play a tax to keep elite players, and use the edges of their rosters to make up the value. Players like Joey Taps do not just come to Canberra, so to lose him over 50k a year would be silly. While the Croker and Whitehead deals are instructive, no one else was going to sign them. In this case, there would be a cavalcade of thieves ready to steal Joey away. I suggested before a two-year deal would have been a way to keep the risk of paying for past production at a minimum, but sometimes this is what it takes to get a deal done. Even the good news is tinged with a bit of bad for the Milk.
Regardless, it’s good to see. The Raiders need Tapine to be competitive in the next few years. Keeping him at a price does bring a risk, but losing him would be so much worse. Here’s hoping the deal is done next week.
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