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Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah calls for NRL to end get-out rule despite James Tedesco re-signing

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Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah questioned the NRL having a rule that allowed players to back out of contracts before round 13 of each season even though it enabled his club to retain Canberra-bound James Tedesco.

Farah was pivotal in helping Tedesco, 21, to reach his decision to abandon a marquee player's contract with the Raiders which was estimated to be worth $1.9 million. While Farah celebrated the fact Tedesco would remain a Wests Tiger he said his personal involvement was tough because he knew his advice could have ramifications on not only Tedesco's future but his close friendship with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.

Nevertheless, he expressed amazement that a situation existed where the NRL's rules allowed for a player to back out on a signed and sealed deal. "I don't agree with the rule and if you ask me, I think it's a terrible rule," said Farah on Thursday. "Other players are taking advantage of it so why can't James? It's happened in the past but, as I said, I don't agree with it. I don't think it should be there but it is, no rules are broken. Canberra were put in that situation last year with [Josh] Papali'i [who backed out of a deal with Parramatta] and they were trying to get [Brisbane-bound] Anthony Milford out this year. So it's not the first time."

Farah said he would want scrapping the rule tabled on the agenda when the NRL's senior player group, which he and the likes of Paul Gallen, represented the players at the NRL later this year to discuss matters and issues. "I wouldn't be against that," he said of banning the rule. "I don't agree with that but while it's there people and players will continue to take advantage of it [because] no rule has been broken."

Farah said the No.1’s decision was reached after their two emotion-charged meetings in which it became clear he wanted to stay at the merged club. “There was no doubt the boy was really down and it was noticeable and [after I returned from Origin duty [assistant coach] Toddy Payten had a word with me on Tuesday morning and said 'Teddy hasn’t been the same’,” Farah said. “I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, we trained on Tuesday, and you could see it out there. I grabbed him afterwards and said ‘let’s just go for a coffee’. We had a good long chat about everything – where his head was at – and he got pretty emotional. I told him he had to go home and have a serious think about it, spend some time on his own, with family. Obviously, he was worried about the backlash and what people were going to think. At the end of the day I said ‘you’ve got to make a decision that makes you happy, not what makes Robbie Farah happy or anyone else.”

The pair met again, this time at Farah’s house the following day, and while Tedesco said his heart was at Concord, he expressed his concern at upsetting Raiders coach Ricky Stuart. “He was obviously pretty nervous, as was I, because Sticky is a really close friend of mine. It’s hard. I was caught between a rock and a hard place but at the end of the day I said ‘mate, whatever your call is I’ll support you’ and if that means I take the brunt of it then. so be it. I was just doing what was best for him and this footy club.”

Farah admitted he feared that by advising and supporting his teammate he risked ruining his friendship with Stuart who, as coach of the Raiders, has now missed out on recruiting Tedesco, Penrith winger Josh Mansour, Melbourne forward Kevin Proctor and Canterbury hooker Michael Ennis. “Of course,” he said. “But it’s not about me, it’s not about Stick. It’s about him. He’s done what he feels is best for James Tedesco. I have no doubt Sticky would be filthy and upset, as I would be if I lost a quality player of his calibre but I just hope when the dust settles that that friendship will still remain.”

Farah said the Wests Tigers must learn from past experiences of losing quality players because of what he called “poor communication”. “It’s a massive decision for a kid,” said Farah. “He’s 21, obviously the negotiation process could have been handled better. Probably the only ones who handled it properly were Canberra and at the end of the day they were the ones who lost out. Ideally, he should have been done a long time ago but for one reason or another [it wasn’t]. That’s something we’ve discussed in-house. I’ve already spoken to Grant [chief executive Grant Mayer] about it. It’s not the first time our club has been in a situation like this. We’ve had issues in the past with Beau Ryan, Beni [Marshall] and all different sorts of stuff. We need to learn from it. We need to be more professional and get better.”