The free agency era and the salary caps intended to prevent sports dynasties in order to keep things interesting ushered in the necessity for a level of creativity not needed before, when a player was treated in what can only be seen as a master/apprentice relationship.
Professional sports clubs managed to find ways to circumvent the best intentions of officials, who imposed limits on what any one club could spend on players in order to keep the lesser funded clubs on somewhat equal footing with the deep-pocketed clubs.
New Manly Sea Eagles Coach Des Hasler was quickly put to the inquisition over his salary-cap management techniques.
Hasler left the Manly club seven years ago, a bitter departure following the Sea Eagles’ premiership success in 2011. Hasler relied on contracts that were heavily back-weighted in order to keep his star players in the fold, a technique that resulted in his being terminated by Manly in 2011 and again by the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2016.
He defended his approach, and probably could site thousands of precedents from around the world where similar jiggering of the books was accepted with a nod and a wink.
“I’ve always had a pretty robust philosophy towards the best way to manage cap and list management at the time,” Hasler said recently when fronting a presser to promote his return to Manly.
Hasler pointed out that managing a club’s list and finding creative ways to work with NRL salary cap regulations was simply a reality of the role performed by a modern-day coach.
When the journos at the presser brought up the matter of how Hasler had approached the salary cap issue during his time with the Bulldogs, he said, “With an incumbent coach it’s always that coach’s priority to look at that list and to manage that list and carve out a way going forward. Players’ values are very subjective and it’s got to fit in with the coach’s plans at that particular time.”
Those players who choose to chase the big payday at the expense of playing for the glory of being on the winning side should be free to do so, else the term “free agency” has no weight.