NRL Rd 1 - Broncos v Eels
NRL Rd 1 - Broncos v Eels

Poor choice could take decades off Kevvie’s career

Kevin Walters will be measured as much by his mistakes as his successes this early in his coaching career, which is not the easiest marker to have against your name.

Walters was an emotional choice to take over Brisbane this season but must be careful not to be hamstrung by emotional decisions.

There is no more important time than for Walters to believe in whatever his coaching philosophy is than now, as he establishes himself at Brisbane.

A poor choice now could take decades off his career.

So the late hour move to offer Brendan Piakura a three-year deal worth $1.2 million, revealed yesterday, has the whiff of panic to it.

It is everything the Broncos never were; a club panicked over its future.

Piakura is 18 and considered a future star but as he currently weighs his million-dollar offer, one that goes $300,000 next season, $400,000 in 2023 and $500,000 in 2024, a quick check of the record books shows Piakura has played no NRL games.

How much is potential worth? And at what cost to the club?

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Clearly nobody wants to be the club that overlooked a young Cameron Smith again, which the Broncos did the first time around and were reminded of annually, if not more, but also no club wants to be burdened by added weight in the salary cap that is not delivering.

It goes both ways.

More than a few clubs are heaving under salary cap pressures after being caught in bidding wars to secure talent and paying too much to win those wars, bending their salary cap out of shape.

Piakura's late offer, in response to approaches from Canterbury and Gold Coast, appears a bid as much about giving the impression the Broncos remain a desirable club as it is a legitimate offer for talent.

But the Broncos cannot get around the reality that it almost immediately adds pressure to the Broncos' salary cap picture, one already beset with dark whispers saying the Broncos are over the cap this season and will struggle to meet the balance sheet.

The Broncos were never a club to panic buy.

They were a development club, and there was always another good one coming through, and a trust in the system.

The Broncos are becoming desperate to re-sign Brendan Piakura. Picture: Annette Dew
The Broncos are becoming desperate to re-sign Brendan Piakura. Picture: Annette Dew

Walters himself was promoted to replace Wally Lewis when Wayne Bennett finally admitted to himself he could not win premierships with Lewis at five-eighth.

The Broncos won the next two premierships a season later, in 1992-93, and it became the Broncos' way.

Wendell Sailor replaced Willie Carne, Lote Tuqiri replaced Mick Hancock, Petero Civoniceva and Shane Webcke followed Glenn Lazarus and Andrew Gee and on it went.

Somewhere along the way, though, the Broncos recruitment soured.

Now, the Broncos behave like they don't know what kind of club they are. Walters is believed to have intervened in negotiations with Piakura after relations soured with recruitment boss Pete Nolan.

Having lost rising stars David Fifita and Reese Walsh, with Sam Walker gone a year earlier, the Broncos appear unable to recognise the priorities within their stable, or at the least be able to keep them.

The answer, though, is not always more money.

Instead of securing the best of their talent on long term deals they are being caught in bidding wars with poachers, and not always winning.

The key for development clubs is that trust in the system. Not every player can be retained, but through development the Broncos have earned themselves the first and best shot at the talent identified.

After loosing Reece Walsh, the Broncos are panicking and paying overs to keep their young stars. Picture: Liam Kidston.
After loosing Reece Walsh, the Broncos are panicking and paying overs to keep their young stars. Picture: Liam Kidston.

Other clubs, recruitment clubs like the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne, who with limited junior resources must recruit instead of develop, give themselves no choice but to pay overs for the best of the development clubs' players, but do it so well.

This basic situation, combined with poor decision making, is creating an overcooked market among young talent, an arms race that is having a shocking effect on some clubs.

If salary caps are truly designed to protect clubs from themselves then the time might soon be coming that the NRL introduces contract ceilings for young players yet to play first grade, which works so tremendously in the AFL.

The obsession with generation next is destroying some clubs.

Even as clever a football mind as Phil Gould succumbed to the siren song of Generation Next.

For some years the Panthers were happy allowing players to leave because there was always another good one coming through.

It was presented as solid salary cap management.

In truth the Panthers lost a critical core of young players with anywhere between 50 and 70 games' experience and their annual investment in youth began to become a problem.

Instead of getting it done, the Panthers were always building for next season.

Finally Ivan Cleary got to the club and stopped it, and the Panthers have never looked better.

Originally published as Kent: Poor choice could take decades off Kevvie's career


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