A Kangaroos star’s stunned reaction to the Roosters’ salary cap, a Luke Keary contract snag that could see him out the door, and Peter Sterling’s advice for Mitchell Pearce.
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Mansour stunned by Roosters’ salary cap
Fans aren’t afraid to express disbelief at the Roosters’ seemingly limitless ability to fit new stars under the salary cap but most players won’t publicly go there.
So it was refreshing to hear Josh Mansour’s shocked reaction to Cooper Cronk’s signing, with the Kangaroos winger taken aback by the roster the Tricolours are putting together.
“Yeah, Jesus. How do they fit everyone?” Mansour laughed, when asked about the Cronk signing by media on Monday.
“Yeah, oh mate, they’re going to have a good team obviously, so they’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with.”
The candid comment comes on the same day it was revealed Mitchell Pearce had met with Trent Robinson, with the Roosters coach publicly expressing his eagerness to keep the No.7 at the club, even if he does have to drop to the bench.
So Mansour was no doubt thinking the same thing many fans are: How can the rest of the competition expect to compete with a side boasting Cronk, James Tedesco, Pearce, Keary, Jake Friend as well as a pack littered with Test players and a back five that includes Blake Ferguson, Daniel Tupou, Latrell Mitchell and Michael Gordon?
Keary deal not over the line
While most of the focus of Cronk’s signing with the Roosters has been on Mitchell Pearce’s next move, a snag with the club’s extension offer to Luke Keary could be the next plot twist, according to The Australian senior rugby league reporter Brent Read.
Speaking on NRL 360, Read revealed Keary was underwhelmed by the money on offer from the club to keep the five-eighth tied at Bondi for a further two years beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of next season.
Keary had an outstanding 2017 but the Roosters’ decision to add Cronk and Tedesco on big deals, while trying to keep their current playmakers, could ultimately cost him a significant pay rise.
According to Read that could potentially change the conversation around Pearce.
“The interesting thing about Keary is they’re (the Roosters) in talks with him about a contract extension and from what I can understand the offer hasn’t been that good,” Read said.
“It’s nowhere near what Luke Keary would expect so maybe, if they can’t reach an agreement with Luke Keary on an extension, maybe it’s Keary who goes and Mitchell Pearce plays five-eighth.”
Sterlo would leave if he was Pearce
After meeting with coach Robinson on Monday, Pearce has a massive call to make about whether to eat humble pie and take a bench role at the Roosters or look elsewhere.
Legendary half Peter Sterling was the main man at the Eels for most of his career and said it would be nearly impossible for Pearce to take a back seat after a decade of wearing the No.7 jersey.
For that reason Sterling said he would leave for a fresh start if he was Pearce.
“I’m just trying to put myself in the place of Mitchell Pearce. I’d really struggle to stay,” Sterling said on Triple M’s Dead Set Legends on Monday.
“Twenty-eight years of age, 240 first grade games, current NSW halfback, played 17 Origins. To then have the alternative of coming off the bench or playing out of dummy half, it doesn’t appeal to me.
“I’d consider myself an elite halfback, a starting halfback. To sign another halfback and have the thought that it means the hooker can play less minutes, the ramifications for Mitchell Pearce aren’t good.
“ … I’d struggle to stay. I’m keen to know what Trent Robinson had to say to Mitchell Pearce and he’s been a strong supporter of Mitchell as all the club has while he’s been there. But this is really going to test that.
“I don’t believe Mitchell Pearce fits alongside Cooper Cronk as starting halves.
“Luke Keary had a fantastic season this year. He is the running five-eighth the Roosters need and enjoyed this year.
“If the hooker, Jake Friend, is going to play less minutes, it’s really Mitchell Pearce in the gun sights there.
“They’re not going to bring Cronk off the bench … I think Keary’s the best alternative with six on his back, so Mitchell Pearce looks like he comes off the bench and if I’m Mitchell that doesn’t sit with me.”
England optimistic about Burgess
England are expecting to have Sam Burgess back as early as the quarterfinals of the Rugby League World Cup in what would be a stunning recovery from a medial ligament injury.
Burgess limped off in the first half of England’s tournament opening loss to Australia after hurting his knee, with an initial prognosis that had him struggling to return in the World Cup even if his side made the final without him.
However, several days later the team has got a more optimistic view about his potential role later in the tournament, with Burgess taking part in some light exercises at a training session at Redfern Oval.
Coach Wayne Bennett suggested the 28-year-old’s medial ligament damage was “not too bad”.
“We are aiming for (quarter-finals) … quarters at best. At worst, the next game after that,” Bennett told reporters.
“It’s not as serious as it could have been.”
Winger Jermaine McGillvary, who crossed for England’s only try in their 18-4 loss to the Kangaroos, offered an even more optimistic diagnosis.
“Hopefully he’s going to be back for the quarter-finals, or maybe before. He’ll be back soon,” McGillvary said.
Treat Pacific Tests like Origin: Pritchard
Veteran forward Frank Pritchard has called on administrators to start treating Pacific Tests more like State of Origin and watch the international game grow.
Pritchard is one of the spearheads of the Samoa forward pack, with his side set to meet Tonga in a massive World Cup rivalry clash this weekend.
Speaking to NRL.com, he said the potential of match ups between the two was limitless if treated in the right way.
“You have to look at the bigger picture. There’s only that one-off test in [May] and then if there’s no Four Nations at the end of the year then we lose out,” Pritchard said.
“It’s just about having the availability and clubs letting those guys play and making the stance that the Pacific Test has the same pedigree as State of Origin.
“It will take time but they need to make it a proper game first and foremost.
“The numbers that are in the NRL, I think it’s something like 47 per cent that are Pacific Islanders in the game so I think the NRL need to endorse that a little bit more.”
Sticking point in pay deal
The NRL is on the verge of withdrawing its pay offer to the players, with the Rugby League Players’ Association still to sign off on the deal.
Speaking about the issue on NRL 360, senior News Corp journalists Paul Kent, Phil Rothfield and Brent Read warned the NRL’s threat was real due to the parlous financial state the game is currently in.
“They’ve got a deal as good, if not better, than the AFL players,” Rothfield said.
“AFL players get more backsides on seats, they get more money in sponsors because they’re a fully national game.
“So if the NRL players don’t take this I think they are crazy, I think they’re going to lose a PR battle and I think they’ll come out of it as greedy.”
Read added that the clubs were now in a position where they would likely side with the NRL as concern grows around the game’s financial future.
“If the clubs get the opportunity to peel some money back, you can bet they’ll peel it back because the game is struggling financially and a lot of it’s gone to the players,” Read said.
Kent explained that the sticking point for the Players’ Association was the NRL’s plan for unprojected revenue unaccouted for in the 29.5 per cent set to go to the players.
“The sticking point is how they divide non projected profit revenue,” Kent said.
“So after the 29-and-a-half per cent, they’re working on a figure of what that will be, but if the game makes more money than what they anticipate, how do they do that?
“Now Todd (Greenberg) wants to profit share, he wants to split it four ways — NRL, players, clubs and grassroots — the players just want a flat 29 and-a-half per cent of that (unforecasted) revenue.”