Recruitment approach needs a rethink

It’s been the talking point of the off-season – the Solomona, Segeyaro and Sandow dramas.

Three cases that put rugby league and Super League in particular in a worrying light. They have put the validity of contracts into question, and have left many in the game worrying where loyalty and professionalism have gone, if they even exist anymore.

In all three instances the clubs have been burned.

The Castleford and Denny Solomona episode is different to the other two, who have cited homesickness and family as the reasons why they want to head home, while the Kiwi wants to cross codes.  From what I understand the Tigers have behaved impeccably in the Solomona situation, while the winger and his management not so.

Leeds and Warrington have not been unprofessional in their dealings with their two want-away Antipodeans, far from it, but the result does beg the question why did they sign them both in the first place?

Considering their records, what they did expect? Did they know exactly who they were recruiting in the first place? Did they do their due diligence properly?

For both to jump ship and not fulfill their contracts is not exactly the biggest surprise when you look at their backgrounds.

Both Segeyaro and Sandow are talented players, but both were not wanted in the NRL. They had little choice but to head to Super League to resurrect their careers.

Segeyaro was dumped to reserve grade at the Panthers. Other NRL clubs weren’t interested at the time, largely because of his behaviour. In May he was warned about consorting with alleged crime figures at Sydney’s Star casino, and then he was linked to a sex tape featuring Corey Norman.

Sandow was kicked out by the Gold Coast and then jumped ship from South Sydney to Parramatta for a massive contract, burning bridges at Souths as he left. His off-field behavior, including problems with gambling and a car incident, is long documented. He also fell out with Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, as well as Eels teammates, which precipitated his departure.

What I am getting at is both are far from angels. Highly talented yes, match-winners on their day, but difficult individuals to manage and coach. Any club that recruits them has to be fully aware of this, and has to be aware that there is a good chance that it could go wrong.

They were and remain risky signings.

The same can be said for the likes of Albert Kelly, Dave Taylor, Tim Smith, Greg Bird and a whole host of others over the years.

Now even Ben Barba is apparently being linked to a Super League move by some after testing positive for cocaine a second time, resulting in a 12-game NRL ban, as well as being kicked out of two NRL clubs and being accused of domestic violence, all in the past four years. You can’t make this stuff up.

It makes you wonder if Super League clubs are doing any research at all, or just care purely about what happens on the field.

Rugby league is not a sport for angels, that’s not in doubt, and not every player has to be squeaky clean and saintly. But the days of players doing the business on the pitch and whatever they want off it, with no repercussions at all, is long gone.

We live in a society now where scrutiny in all walks of life is much higher. In the social media age every indiscretion is calculated and magnified.

Recruitment is far from straight-forward, it’s a risk-filled business. But Super League sides need to weigh the risk appropriately, not put all their eggs in their basket because player X can score two tries a game or get them into the Super 8s single-handedly. Things like culture, discipline, professionalism, team unity, impact on sponsors, fans and their brand, are important considerations to weigh up.

For every Pat Richards there seems to be a Willie Mason, for every Luke Dorn an Anthony Watts.

Recruitment decisions should not be taken lightly and should be made considering the whole package, not just the on-field component. Because when they go pear-shaped, which we are sadly seeing a lot of right now, it is not only the club but the wider code that is damaged.

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