In our ongoing coverage here at the Daily Fifita, most of our assessment has been focused on the challenge the Raiders face in snaring a top tier talent when the big money clubs exist, and also want that talent. For many years Canberra’s recruitment strategy has been based on finding the overlooked and outcast and making that talent sing. A signature like David Fifita would be a boon indeed.
Our pessimism had focused on the idea that Fifita was more likely to be seeking more money to stay where he is than trying to come to Canberra. The reported, though unconfirmed, signature of Shaylee Bent, is hopefully a draw (though, more importantly, she’ll be a draw for talent and a critical foundation stone for the women’s team, as we noted here). But it’s always felt this dance was more about the Titans’ star getting big money to remain where he is, rather than sacrificing money to head to god’s country for the lake and the Raiders (oh Canberra is wonderful).
But surprisingly the Broncos have (as yet) not been reported as interested, and more curiously (and relevant for the Raiders) it was reported this week the Titans are preparing to part ways with David Fifita in order to sign Jeremiah Nanai. The Cowboy backrower is a quality player, and also currently on the market. Nanai is on the same contract timing as Fifita, and at just 19 and already a Kangaroo, is highly sort after on the open market. Reports are that he’s already likely to receive deals above and beyond those being offered to Fifita by a range of clubs. The Cows, however, are confident he’ll stay.
Publicly making this ‘if you don’t stay we’ll go in another direction’ is fascinating. As a negotiating tactic it could have two interpretations. The first is the Titans trying to put pressure on Fifita to accept a lower deal because they have other options. This isn’t particularly credible given Nanai is being offered more than Fifita is reportedly claiming. The second assessment is that the Titans are portraying the overly-defensive jilted lover pretending things will be fine without their paramour. This would suggest that the relationship between the star and the club is becoming (if not already) untenable.
So with the relationship at the Titans increasingly frayed, and the Broncos cap tied up elsewhere, it’s a win for the Milk in that the credible options for Fifita are diminishing. Fifita may remain in Queensland, but the more this discussion plays out in the public the less likely that feels. If he is to leave, Canberra remains in the conversation aside the Bunnies and Dolphins as the most likely options (though the Dragons are purportedly involved too). I suspect existing relationships with Jason Demtriou and Wayne Bennett would be strong drawcards to those locations, as Bent may be to Canberra. If only the NRL would finalise a collective bargaining agreement so NRLW signing can be announced.
Again we reiterate our pessimism about this eventuality. It’s my nature as a person but also as a Raiders fan. It seems likely that Fifita wouldn’t want to sign a long-term deal from a place of negotiating weakness, and that he’d want more big-name clubs involved. Canberra’s chase feels more hopeful than likely, though they’re pulling out all stops (as we noted last week, it’s quite the change in strategy). But the longer this goes on, the more teams that seemingly drop out of the discussion, the bigger the Green Machine’s chances are.
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