Former rugby league star Owen Craigie discusses the week that was in the NRL, Mitchell Moses’ contract drama, and says with the money being thrown around, maybe it’s time for a comeback.
Owen Craigie

19 Apr 2017 - 12:45 PM  UPDATED 19 Apr 2017 - 12:54 PM

A lot of the talk this past week has again been on contracts and in particular Mitchell Moses and Wests Tigers. I’ll get to that shortly, but footy-wise over the weekend I thought the game of the round was obviously the Broncos-Titans game.

And the player that really stood out for me was young Ash Taylor from the Titans – the kid’s got representative football written all over him. It’s just a pity he’s a Queenslander not a New South Welshman.

But on the other end, I think James Roberts should just about cement his spot in the Origin squad this year. He’s the in-form centre of the comp, James Roberts, and if there’s contract issues there at the Broncos, then I’m quite sure that any other team in the comp would take him tomorrow.

He’s a great defender, he’s got great speed, he’s got great aggression and he backs himself – look at the hat-trick he scored on the weekend.

I don’t know who will win the 2017 comp because you don’t win the Melbourne Cup in April, it’s a long way to go. The Dragons are going really well but for me the dark horses this year are the Canberra Raiders – the style of football that they’re playing – it reminds you of the Raiders back in the ‘90s.

Here’s a prime example - Joey Leilua, in Newcastle, Newcastle got rid of him. They said ‘Oh he’s lazy, he wasn’t committed’. But when you think about it, he never got the ball. He goes to the Raiders and he’s the best centre in the comp. So there’s the two centres for this year: James Roberts and Leilua for the Raiders. He’s the most dangerous players in the comp because the style of football that coach Ricky Stuart has got him is expansive football, early ball. And the reason why the wingers are having a lot of success is because the inside centre has created all this opportunity for him.

Now, to the Tigers.

I thought it was a good game on Monday, I thought the Tigers had it home and hosed but they just choked at the end of the game there. Then again, Parramatta came home with a couple of good tries, but it was a high-class game.

Mitchell Moses - there’s still talks of him probably going to Parramatta straight away, but I think the kid should just hang in there. And this is the other thing: some players are good with two-year contracts, three-year contracts – I think Mitchell Moses is one of those players that you get 12 month contracts in. Because since we’ve started talking about his performance he’s played well every week. So maybe he’s good for one-year contracts – some players are just like that. Keeps them on their toes, keeps him busy. After you get a three-year contract they become complacent.

But the money’s astronomical at the moment. I should come back and make a comeback, the sort of money they’re making.

Some of the money that they’re giving is just ridiculous. But the TV rights are coming in and there’s not that many really classy players left out on the market. Some of these players that were once getting $400,000 are now getting $700,000. It’s all timing.

For the Tigers, maybe let him go; there’s no use crying over spilt milk. The damage is done.

Obviously the kid wants to go; let him go. If he’s signed with Parra, by all means – go. Ivan Cleary’s a good coach and I’m quite sure there’s some young product comin’ through the ranks that they’ll be able to spend their money on as well. It’s like a bad relationship – once the damage is done, it’s done.

A contract doesn’t mean anything these days. You can sign a five-year contract tomorrow and you can walk out on it in 12months if you want. And it’s proven – it’s silly season right now. Everyone’s trying to jump camp before June, July. I think that it’s opened a can of worms and players just seem to think, well if I’m not happy, I want a release and I’ll go somewhere else. A contract is not a contract how it was 20 years ago.

I think it’d be hard for the players to think ‘Well I’m playin next to a guy that we’re wanting to be at the club, but also, if he’s done a deal with Parramatta, what can you do?’

But at the end of the day, this is the most important thing that we’ve got to realise – you’ve got to start making decisions now purely on business. Not on empathy and sympathy. Cos if Mitchell Moses breaks his leg tomorrow and he’s out, then the Tigers will probably release him. So it’s a business now and this is what some of these players, they’ve got financial commitments and families, you’ve got to make yourself business commitments and business decisions.

It’s a different world now, rugby league, than when I played. It’s certainly complicated.

But my advice to Mitchell Moses would have been: just keep playing the way it’s going till the end of the year. If he keeps playing the way he’s going – anything’s possible. Anything’s possible. Instead of having Parramatta chasing him, he might have six or seven clubs playing for him. Or the Tigers might come back and give him what he wants and extend his contract.

But someone like Mitchell Moses, I think should be on a one-year, two-year contract. Because it keeps them on their toes. There’s a bit of controversy around him now, but he’s playing well. With all this controversy, he’s playing well. Some players need that – put it in the corner and start throwin’ punches. And he’s one of those blokes that has just proven it. There more you put me in the corner, the more I’m gonna come out.

Hear more from Owen Craigie on Over the Black Dot – Tonight special time 10pm on NITV.