Andrew Johns says if he was in charge of recruitment at an NRL club, he would break the bank and pay $1 million-a-season for just eight players.
Missing from the list is David Fifita, who is still yet to make a call on an absorbing tug-of-war for his services between Queensland rivals the Broncos and the Titans.
The latest reports indicate he is leaning towards committing his future to the Broncos despite the fact that the beaten-down glamour club is unwilling to go any higher than $800,000-a-season to keep him.
The Titans, meanwhile, have reportedly upped their offer to somewhere in the ball park of $1.25 million-a-season – a figure, if accurate, that would make him the highest paid player in the game.
According to Johns, that would be a crazy sum to commit to a 20-year-old edge back-rower, given that most clubs concede that the players in the spine – fullback, five-eighth, halfback, hooker – play the biggest role in determining whether they succeed or fail.
Many would consider Jason Taumalolo great value for his 10-year $1 million-a-season price tag but the Cowboys’ miserable 2020 has highlighted the fact that even the best forward in the competition needs top class creative players pulling the strings behind him to make good things happen.
Johns left Taumalolo out of his list of eight players who he would break the bank for.
According to the Eighth Immortal, the cream of the NRL’s talent pool right now – players he would pay seven figures for if a contract was about to be signed – are: Cameron Smith, Luke Keary, Nathan Cleary, Cameron Munster, Jack Wighton, Mitchell Moses, Tom Trbojevic and James Tedesco.
“The thing is they’re all in the spine. They’re all players who handle the ball a couple of times every set,” Johns told Wide World of Sports’ Immortal Behaviour.
Johns added that the Broncos had got their valuation of Fifita spot-on, with a price tag of up to $800,000-a-season about right for a player with the potential to be the game’s best back-rower.
“A million dollars for me for a back-rower is quite high, I think the Broncos said they’d only go to seven or eight hundred (thousand), something like that,” Johns said.
” … I think the Broncos are right, I think about $800,000, he’s an amazing prospect. He could be one of the best back-rowers in the game but he’s only 20 and I don’t think I’d be paying anywhere near that million dollars, around 750 to 800 (thousand) for a back-rower.”
Johns said he hoped that Fifita was surrounded by good people with his best interests at heart and encouraged him not to make a decision based on his financial interests alone.
The Broncos have been awful since the resumption of the season following the COVID-19 break, but Johns said the club had enough going for it to be confident they would turn things around and become a powerhouse once again in the not too distant future.
He said a move to the Titans would carry considerably more risk.
Holbrook confirms Titans’ interest in Fifita
“My advice to David would be you can’t put a price on happiness and you can’t put a price on winning all the time, so if you’re going to the Titans there’s no guarantee you’re going to be in a strong club, the Broncos at the moment are just treading water but if they get their you-know-what together they’ll be up there most years,” Johns said.
He predicted Fifita would ultimately stay at the Broncos on a long-term deal.