‘Idiots’ creating NRL’s $1 million wannabes
One of the NRL's most experienced and respected recruitment chiefs has declared "idiots" have created an inflated player market for $1 million wannabes and it is putting young stars in dangerous territory.
Latrell Mitchell's decision to reject the Sydney Roosters' $800,000-a-season offer has created a huge debate about what makes a genuine million-dollar footballer in the player market.
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Asked for his opinion on the topic, Canberra's Peter Mulholland didn't hold back: "The idiots who want to pay it.
"Seriously, we are living in a very false economy.
"What makes a million dollar player should be someone who every week has an influence on the outcome of a game.
"It is a player that gives you, I believe, a 70 per cent chance of winning the game you are in. Not a 50/50 per cent, it has to be 70-75 per cent.
"He has to be a complete person, and that is both as a player and a citizen. He has to set a standard for himself and others.
"Now, you may get players who are great leaders and role models. But the million dollar man also has to be the bloke who can win you the game on his own."
And right now that elite field is being overrun by players who just don't live up to the price tag or the pressure that goes with it.
St George Illawarra's Ben Hunt and Gold Coast's Ash Taylor are two examples of players who have buckled under the heat of not aiming up to their seven-figure salaries.
The likes of Cameron Smith, Daly Cherry-Evans, Mitchell Pearce, Kieran Foran, Anthony Milford, Jason Taumalolo and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are all said to be in the NRL's million dollar club.
Of those only Smith could legitimately tick every box of the list of requirements Mulholland identified.
The retirement in recent seasons of the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess and Cooper Cronk has created a void of proven champions.
James Tedesco is rated the world's best player but is said to be happy pocketing $900,000 at the Roosters, making the claims that Mitchell wanted more even more astonishing.
Of the current crop Tedesco, Cherry-Evans, Luke Keary, Cameron Munster and Josh Hodgson are probably the closest to that top shelf bracket who could potentially move into the champion status.
While Taumalolo would also have his admirers the fact is the Cowboys again missed the top eight this year.
Young guns like Kalyn Ponga and David Fifita are also being talked up as potential million dollar men in waiting.
But according to Mulholland, both players and clubs need to be careful what they wish for.
"The false economy is created by desperation," Mulholland explained.
"It is created by clubs who have got an extraordinary amount of money in their pocket and for one reason they are looking for a quick fix."
South Sydney boss Shane Richardson said this week that while his club had no interest in signing Mitchell his advice to the 22-year-old would be for him to stay at the Roosters.
Mulholland agreed "100 per cent".
"You have to be careful because the pressure it puts on the kids is ridiculous," Mulholland said.
"There are players who can handle it but they are the minority."