Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler have had their say on the future of some of the NRL’s key off-contract playmakers.
Ash Taylor should head to England and play in the Super League next season, rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns says.
The $1 million per season playmaker is off-contract with the Gold Coast Titans and has failed to live up to his salary.
Taylor is still just 26, yet Johns believes that he should try a change of scenery.
“Go to the UK, I think. The game over there might suit him, a bit more open, a bit more attacking,” Johns said on Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth.
“Get over there and experience something different.”
Fellow rugby league great Fittler said that Taylor should cop a pay cut and stay at the Titans; as the playmaker himself has indicated that he wants to do, in an effort to repay the club and finally realise his potential.
“I’ve got Ash, for his own sake, I’ve got him staying with the Titans,” Fittler said.
“I think because of their forward pack; he needs a good forward pack and they’re a good, strong forward pack. I think for his own good, he should stay there. Sacrifice a bit of coin, see what you can do, big boy.”
Johns and Fittler gave their thoughts on the future of a number of off-contract playmakers. Here are the others.
ANTHONY MILFORD (Broncos)
Johns threw up the curious prospect of Milford, a disappointing $1 million per season signing for Brisbane, slashing his salary and playing for the Roosters; where he would be hard-pressed getting a game, with a likely Luke Keary-Sam Walker halves pairing for next season and James Tedesco at fullback.
“Take a pay cut, realise your potential,” Johns said.
“I look at some of the players who have gone to the Roosters, someone like Drew Hutchison. [Milford has] a lot of potential but for whatever reason, didn’t reach that potential. Different players around him, different environment, Trent Robinson as coach.
“I’m sure they’ll fit him under the salary cap!”
Fittler suggested that he could return to Canberra, where he first shot to stardom. Again, Milford would have to fight hard for a position in a Raiders spine featuring Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jack Wighton and George Williams.
“I’ve got him going home,” Fittler said.
“I think go home and there’s a couple of positions he could play. I don’t mind him as a fullback, he could play in the halves if he had to.
“Without a doubt he’s got to get fitter, fitness is always a key to Anthony. But I like watching him play.”
SAM WALKER (Roosters)
The teenage halfback prodigy will be staying put with the Roosters, Johns and Fittler believe, after a brilliant start to his NRL career this season.
“They’ve got a 300-gamer,” Johns said.
“He’ll still be playing when he’s 32, 33, 34. He’s got another 14, 15 years playing. He is so good to watch.”
Fittler added: “Geez, he was good on the weekend [against the Dragons]. That try was unreal. He ran past a front-rower and I think a back-rower to score.”
SCOTT DRINKWATER (Cowboys)
Fittler said that Drinkwater should perhaps move on after the Cowboys’ curious decision to sign both Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden in the halves.
“I found that odd, seriously,” Fittler said.
“I’d like to see him at Newcastle. He’s a Central Coast boy. He’s got Mitchell [Pearce], who’s a very regimented halfback these days, sets the game up and just allows him to play.
“Imagine him and [Kalyn] Ponga just buzzing around. He’s a great player, Scott Drinkwater.”
Johns said that Drinkwater should stay put at the Cowboys and fight for a spot.
BENJI MARSHALL (Rabbitohs)
Fittler suggested that Marshall might do a Darius Boyd and follow coach Wayne Bennett to wherever he works next season.
Marshall, 36, is the NRL’s oldest player and extended his career with a late phone call to Bennett in pre-season. He’s since played strongly for the Rabbitohs, after being cast aside by Wests Tigers last year.
“I’ve got him hanging with the oldest coach. Wayne seems to get the most out of him, I think Benji and Wayne are a really good partnership,” Fittler said.
“Benji should go [where Bennett goes]. Outside that, I think at the Broncos he’d fit pretty good.”
Johns believes that Marshall may stay put at Souths for another season, before which he would turn 37.
“By all accounts Adam Reynolds is going elsewhere; I hope it’s not true,” Johns said.
AND WHAT ABOUT DALY CHERRY-EVANS?
Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans is all of a sudden being touted to leave the Sea Eagles, to free up their salary cap. The Test halfback makes more than $1 million per season, claiming an agreed annual percentage of Manly’s cap.
As the current Queensland captain, he’s been speculated about as a target for hapless Brisbane. Fittler and Johns aired another rumour doing the rounds about DCE, amid the looming exit of Reynolds from the Rabbitohs.
“There was a rumour he was going to Souths,” Fittler said.
Johns added: “I heard that rumour too, that he was going to Souths. He really enjoyed being coached by Wayne [Bennett].”
Bennett and Cherry-Evans led Queensland to a shock State of Origin series win over NSW last season. Bennett will step down as South Sydney coach after this season, handing the reins to long-time deputy Jason Demetriou, but may stay involved with the club in some capacity.
The Rabbitohs would have to undertake some roster renovation to fit Cherry-Evans into their salary cap, even if Manly agreed to pay some of his wage. They baulked at re-signing Reynolds for more than one season despite the 2014 premiership winner’s lesser salary.
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