Don Furner says Papalii deal was legit
Canberra Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
CANBERRA RAIDERS chief executive Don Furner has defended the controversial round-13 rule that allowed the club to retain Josh Papalii, insisting a foolproof contract system is impossible.
But Raiders coach David Furner has suggested the club was only placed in the difficult position because the rule was used as a bargaining tool in negotiations.
Canberra is at loggerheads with Parramatta after the back-rower reneged on a contract he signed with the Eels to recommit to the Raiders until the end of 2016.
There have been reports that Parramatta may consider legal action, but the Eels seem to have softened their stance.
''He's made his decision, rightly or wrongly,'' a Parramatta source said on Saturday. ''There's no immediate plans for that [legal action].''
Don Furner said on ABC Radio on Saturday the round-13 rule, which prevents the NRL registering a player contract with a rival club before then, is better than previous failed options.
''The round-13 rule was brought in because it gives the incumbent club every chance of keeping a player,'' Furner said.
''Whatever date was set for contract periods over the years has always been broken. It used to be [before] June 30, it used to be in October.
''If we couldn't match the money for Josh Papalii, he would have been right to go. But it gives the club that has developed that player the last chance to keep them.''
Asked whether he was worried the Eels would take it to the courts, David Furner was confident the Raiders' deal is bulletproof.
He intimated the round-13 rule had been exploited by Papalii's management to ensure Canberra needed to increase its offer to match Parramatta's.
''Josh has always wanted to stay here and I think the advice given about round 13 has probably made the situation what it is, it's as simple as that,'' Furner said.
''You only have to play by the rules in place and we certainly have, I think it was good work by the club.'' Canberra was burnt by the rule in 2008, when Penrith back-rower Nathan Smith backed out of a Raiders contract to remain at the Panthers.
Don Furner insisted the clause remains the best option available to the NRL to prevent open season on uncontracted players.
''It gives us a chance to find a bit more money to keep a particular player, or we can't match it and they go with our best wishes,'' he said.
''That's what happened with James Maloney last year, [incumbent club] the Warriors couldn't match the money offered by the Roosters, so they gave them permission to register the contract.
''That wasn't the case with us, we fought to keep him [Papalii] and we won that fight.''
David Furner said the potential still existed for junior concessions to be introduced into the NRL's salary-cap system.
''It would be nice to be rewarded there, but at the moment we're not and we just have to keep fighting to keep those players,'' he said.
Papalii will avoid the daunting task of playing in front of Parramatta's fans this year, as the Eels are set to play at Canberra Stadium in round 19.
Canberra representative prop David Shillington said the players would have Papalii's back.
''He certainly will come under some criticism from Parramatta and I'm sure they'll be filthy they missed out on him. But at the end of the day he hasn't broken any rules,'' Shillington said.
''He's no stranger to controversy with the Queensland-New Zealand tug of war last year, and hopefully that's made him stronger and well equipped to handle this situation.
''He'll be well protected by the club … I don't think he'll need too much help, he's a strong fella … It could be a heated game when we play Parramatta, but he'll be well looked after by his teammates.''