What a meeting means

BY DAN

By now you’ve probably heard that Canberra coach Ricky Stuart met with David Fifita’s management last week, as first reported by Adrian Proszenko at The Sydney Morning Herald. Ostensibly this was to start a process of negotiating to try and entice the Titans’ backrower to join the Milk on their noble quest to bring love to the world and peace to our minds. This meeting is a promising sign, but is a mile from the man joining the Raiders.

Two days ago we wrote about how the fact the Raiders had made their claim on David Fifita. Combined with the impending signature of Shaylee Bent (done if you ask David Riccio), the Raiders were publicly making their pitch to bring the talented backrower to Canberra. As we noted then, the fact that the Green Machine were committing to the Canberra Times that they were chasing Fifita was a good sign. Historically that commitment has differentiated their more successful chases from cases of the Raider Raise. That’s where the Milk’s interest is leveraged for a pay increase at another club.

Today we found out that public commitment had occurred at the same time as Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was already been meeting with the Titan’s management. Now that’s quite a thing, and when I read it my heart skipped a beat. It’s the perfect kind of rumour. Substantiated, exciting, but of ambiguous meaning. But it’s also expected. It is a pretty fundamental part, and starting point, of the recruitment process. Meet with the management and start the wooing process. Here’s some chocolates, a player option and if your man can pronounce Toyota (or if you can’t pronounce Mistubishi), there’s probably a forklift in it for him. It wasn’t face to face with the player. It wasn’t finalising details. There were no quotes from any side talking about the keenness to get a deal done. Just some background information and a single detail that might get the noise bubbling (no, not like that) along.

So it would be premature to get too excited about this, though it may be too late for that tiny optimistic bit of my brain i’m currently telling to keep quiet. Certainly no more excited that we had been when Don Furner had already told something similar to the Canberra Times. Indeed apart from the fact of the meeting, the article shares little more insight that what was already public. The article confirmed that the Raiders are interested, and that they see him as potentially part of a package deal with Bent, though noting that one deal isn’t contingent on the other.

Indeed what stood out to me about this information was that it didn’t come from the usual sources. The Raiders and Stuart tend to put information out through either the Canberra Times, or Stuart’s preferred sources like David Riccio, Paul Crawley or the Peanut King at NRL360. Proszenko rarely writes about the Milk (a cursory google search revealed that he’d written this article, a James Schiller puff piece and then article about Rapana leaving for Japan in recent years). This made me wonder if the information had instead come from Fifita’s management, the aptly named Titans Sports Management – who, entirely by coincidence, represent James Schiller.

If that was the case, an if so big the only way to quantify it is to quote Mean Girls (rugby league and Mean Girls, together at last!), then it remains the most likely outcome that the dreaded Raiders Raise rears its ugly head again (shouts to Living Colour). Cui bono (to who’s benefit) is our first question, and of course if Fifita’s management want to scare more money out of the Titans, then confirming that not only are other teams keen but you’re talking to them is a good way to go about it. If your star (and your commission) was facing a 30 something per cent pay-cut you would pull out all the stops too.

Of course, that’s the pessimist in me taking hold. So far this dance is only being played between the Raiders and the Titans, and this meeting could serve two masters. Meeting with the Milk is a precursor to both the Titan signing with the Green Machine and of driving up his value elsewhere. Our speculation, and our pessimism, doesn’t mean one path is settled. Call it Schrodinger’s meeting, or a Rorschach test of how considering whether you’d take a 500k pay cut to move to Canberra. Negotiations can be weird, and if Bent is locked in, that could be a big draw. I still think Fifita is more likely to let his play next season drive up his market value at home, but if you’re going to sign someone, you have to start by meeting their management.

At the very least this is a heap of fun. It’s the moment between buying a lottery ticket and the numbers actually being pulled. Right now i’m buying a fancy car, a stunning house, and putting David Fifita on the right edge and tearing the competition apart. There’s a long way between hope and signatures, but in the meantime a man can dream.

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