Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco's decision to snub the Raiders might help them in the long run, according to his manager. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra won't want to hear it just yet, but the James Tedesco backflip could serve as a NRL blessing in disguise according to his manager Sam Ayoub.
The Wests Tigers fullback reneged on an estimated $600,000-a-year deal with the Raiders on Wednesday just days before the round-13 deadline to remain with his mates.
"I was sick in the guts, I was churning, my head was spinning, because I've got a lot of time for (coach) Ricky Stuart," Ayoub said. But when asked if it could serve as a blessing in disguise as the Raiders are freed up to target several promising younger players elsewhere, Ayoub replied "there's a lot of merit in that".
One of those players could be Roosters youngster Tautau Moga. "Look at the Tigers. The last few years, they'd gone backwards and struggled to attract players," Ayoub said. "Last year, they bought some good second-tier players. A lot of clubs don't go and look at those blokes because they want instant results and they think they're a lottery."
It's no secret the Raiders have had enormous difficulty in signing NRL stars in recent weeks. Melbourne's Kevin Proctor decided to stay at the Storm, Canterbury skipper Michael Ennis is leaning towards Cronulla, Penrith winger Josh Mansour is staying put, while star fullback Anthony Milford is off to Brisbane next year.
Tedesco's backflip has tongues wagging as to why NRL players are avoiding Canberra like the plague - be it the chilly weather, the dull location, the lack of Nine Network exposure, the team's ladder position, the organisation or fiery Stuart himself. The culture of the playing group also took a big hit last year after Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson were sacked following numerous off-field discretions. However, Ayoub said none of his players had mentioned any of the above to him - it was just a run of bad luck.
Regardless, Canberra great Alan Tongue says the spate of turned down offers will hurt the club's reputation in the short term. But he said they'd bounce back as long as they kept the faith in their juniors and remained focused on their next recruitment drive. Tongue added the round-13 contract deadline needed to be scrapped - even though it enabled the Raiders to keep Josh Papalii last year.
"It's not a great look for the game. Football teams are built on guys who are honest and tough," he said.
Fellow Canberra great Gary Belcher said it was the publicity surrounding the Mansour and Tedesco signings, triggered by an airport sighting, that most hurt the Raiders. "There's other clubs doing the same thing without the fanfare," he said.
"By announcing (Tedesco's) signing a week out, they were trying to help attract other players, but it hasn't worked. That's just the nature of the beast."
Fullback Brett Mullins, who spent 11 years at Canberra, said having now lived on the coast, he understood why some Sydney players would be deterred from heading inland. "It's a big jump, but they've got to realise it's only short term," he said. "They'll be questioning it when they retire; they'll be wishing they took those extra bucks."