Do long term contracts ever work in the NRL? Jason Taumalolo vs Daly Cherry Evans

Being a Cowboys fan, I was equal parts ecstatic and nervous about the recent retention of Jason Taumalolo on a ten year, $10 million contract extension which runs from 2018 until 2027. On the one hand, I was overjoyed that the Cows locked up their best young forward and current Dally M winner to a long-term deal, especially in the wake of the NFL overtures and the departure of Kalyn Ponga (still a bit sad about that one, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen warned me about that). On the other hand, I’m yet to see a happy ending to a deal of that nature. I’m officially torn.

Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter – Photo by Keith AllisonCC-BY-SA-2.0

I thought a comparison with the other long term contract holder DCE was in order, plus some examples from other sports. As with all good conundrums, the findings will be completely subjective. In blog land would you expect anything different?

Other sports

The AFL has a high-profile example in Buddy Franklin’s nine year, $10 million contract with the Sydney Swans which commenced in 2014 ending in 2022, with Franklin at the ripe old age of 36. Franklin was in the prime of his career when the Swans signed him (Hawthorn 2005 – 2013, 182 games and 580 goals) and has provided fair return so far (69 games and 217 goals) including a Grand Final in 2014, Semi Final in 2015 and Grand Final in 2016.

America (of course) is where the real action is in terms of long term contracts. Long term contracts are pretty much the norm these days for marquee players as the following list (courtesy of Wikipedia) attests too:

Ilya Kovalchuk New Jersey Devils Ice Hockey 15 years (2010–2025) $100,000,000
Shea Weber Nashville Predators Ice Hockey 14 years (2012–2026) $110,000,000
Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins Baseball 13 years (2015–2027) $325,000,000
Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals Ice Hockey 13 years (2008–2021) $124,000,000
Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Hockey 12 years (2013–2025) $104,400,000
Donovan McNabb Philadelphia Eagles American Football 12 years (2002–2013) $115,000,000
Todd Helton Colorado Rockies Baseball 11 years (2001–2011) $151,500,000
Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners Baseball 10 years (2014–2023) $240,000,000
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds Baseball 10 years (2014–2023) $225,000,000
Albert Pujols Los Angeles Angels Baseball 10 years (2012–2021) $240,000,000
Troy Tulowitzki Colorado Rockies Baseball 10 years (2011–2020) $157,750,000
Alex Rodriguez New York Yankees Baseball 10 years (2008–2017) $275,000,000
Michael Vick Atlanta Falcons American Football 10 years (2005–2014) $130,000,000
Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers Baseball 10 years (2001–2010) $252,000,000
Derek Jeter New York Yankees Baseball 10 years (2001–2010) $189,000,000
Drew Bledsoe New England Patriots American Football 10 years (2001–2010) $103,000,000
Brett Favre Green Bay Packers American Football 10 years (2001–2010) $100,000,000

As you can see, Australia is relatively new to this caper. 

Jason Taumalolo vs DCE

Firstly, some stats:

Jason Taumalolo

Age – 24

Contract – 10 years – $10 million commencing in 2018

Internationals – 12 (9 for NZ and 3 for Tonga)

NRL games – 118 (2010 – 1, 2011 – 3, 2012 – 17, 2013 – 14, 2014 – 25, 2015 – 26, 2016 – 27, 2017 – 5)

Win/Loss – 69-49 (58.47%)

Tries – 24

2014 – 3555m (142.2 per game), Tries – 6, Line breaks – 6, Try assists – 0, Offloads – 4, Tackles – 519 (20.76 per game)

2015 – 4007m (154.1 per game), Tries – 2, Line breaks – 4, Try assists – 0, Offloads – 11, Tackles – 554 (21.31 per game)

2016 – 4454m (165 per game), Tries – 6, Line breaks – 11, Try assists – 0, Offloads – 9, Tackles – 646 (23.93 per game)

2017 – 1171m (234.2 per game), Tries – 1, Line breaks – 2, Try assists – 0, Offloads – 6, Tackles – 137 (27.4 per game)

North Queensland results – 2012 (5th and Semi-Final), 2013 (8th and Elimination Final), 2014 (5th and Semi-Final), 2015 (3rd and Premiers) and 2016 (4th and Preliminary Final)

Daly Cherry-Evans

Age – 28

Contract – 8 years – $10 million commencing in 2015

Internationals – 11

State of Origin – 6

NRL games – 153 (2011 – 27, 2012 – 27, 2013 – 27, 2014 – 23, 2015 – 23, 2016 – 19, 2017 – 7)

Win/Loss – 90-62-1 (58.82%)

Tries – 39

2014 – 1330m (57.8 per game), Tries – 3, Line breaks – 8, Try assists – 11, Offloads – 40, Tackles – 481 (20.91 per game)

2015 – 1355m (58.9 per game), Tries – 4, Line breaks – 9, Try assists – 18, Offloads – 21, Tackles – 525 (22.82 per game)

2016 – 1117m (58.8 per game), Tries – 5, Line breaks – 1, Try assists – 16, Offloads – 17, Tackles – 411 (21.63 per game)

2017 – 365m (52.1 per game), Tries – 1, Line breaks – 1, Try assists – 7, Offloads – 4, Tackles – 186 (26.6 per game)

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles results – 2011 (2nd and Premiers), 2012 (4th and Preliminary Final), 2013 (4th and Grand Final), 2014 (2nd and Semi Final), 2015 (9th), 2016 (13th).

Pros and Cons

Pros

Impact – Jason Taumalolo is a once in a generation player. Rugby League is predominantly a momentum game. If the defensive line is retreating and under fatigue the game becomes much more exciting and unpredictable. Johnathan Thurston, Jake Granville, Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote have suddenly got something to work with. Taumalolo bends the line almost every time he carries the ball. He is without a doubt the best in the game at what he does and the Dally M medal reflects this.

DCE on the other hand spent his early days in the side to equal effect, however, once Kieran Foran left the side along with the core of the premiership winning Sea Eagles, returns have been poor. He is still a good half but questions abound. Unfortunately, the form of the side correlates directly with his contract commencement. It is only year 3 of an 8-year deal but the pressure is mounting and early returns are not good. The Sea Eagles are playing better than the past two season though.

Youth – Taumalolo is still a young buck on a great side. He has risen from dynamic talent to superstar and while it hasn’t been a meteoric rise, because he started in first grade at such a young age, he has the advantage of youth while realistically envisaging peak performance for another 5-6 years at least.

DCE started his mega deal at age 26 so not much is different in that regard. He has the added advantage of playing in the halves. Halves have traditionally had a longer shelf life in the game than forwards.

Certainty – The Cowboys now have certainty around JT 2.0’s contract. The bi-annual distraction of other clubs circling around him or the threat of him trying the NFL evaporates overnight. They can also plan further ahead regarding future contracts.

Ditto for DCE.

Behaviour – Both players have been well behaved to be fair. DCE’s reputation took a battering north of the border when he backed out of the Titans deal but he didn’t do anything illegal. Taumalolo’s reputation has only been besmirched by the egg throwing incident but precious little else.

Cons

Morale of the team – With such a big proportion of the salary cap gone to both JTs it is inevitable that some players will have to find a job elsewhere in the near future. This was one of the big downsides of DCEs deal, the impact on existing team mates. The Cows will have to weather this storm and either retain players on lower values, promote from within or nab good value free agents looking for game time elsewhere. Paul Green will have to monitor morale in the meantime.

Risk of injury – This is a big one. The Cowboys are taking on a massive risk guaranteeing payment for a player in a contact sport over so many years. Taumalolo has an outstanding injury record but his style will eventually lend itself to injury and the NRL is one of the hardest contact sports in the World to play. This could end very badly.

DCE’s contract has the same risk but as mentioned above, halves generally accrue less collateral damage over the years.

Length of contract – Just the sheer length of this deal means that Taumalolo will be 34 by the end of it. Many forwards don’t last that long in the game. The Cowboys are hoping that his performance doesn’t dramatically tail off over the final years of the deal but that is the big risk. Similar with DCE.

Salary cap – Initially it is a big chunk of their salary cap on one player. Over time as the salary cap presumably increases it will actually become an advantage to the Cowboys.

Verdict

Ten years is a long time in the NRL and early returns obviously favour Taumalolo over DCE but both deals will have to be judged on their merits in hindsight.

Stay Tuned

Next exciting episode will be on Wednesday, 3 May 2017 titled ‘Where is the next Moneyball for small market teams like the Brewers?’.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s