Bulldogs salary cap mess means they can't chase big names until 2021

Talking points

Canterbury’s new management concede the club can’t be active in the transfer market until 2021 after inheriting a salary cap mess that includes having up to 10 players entering the big money years of back-ended contracts next year.

The Bulldogs addressed the issues at a members forum on Thursday, the first official communication since the new board swept to power in February. The summit, which included appearances from NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC chair Peter Beattie, outlined the extent of the mess they inherited from the previous regime.

Reinforcements aren’t coming: Canterbury won’t be able to properly refresh their roster until 2021.

Despite the dramas, Canterbury CEO Andrew Hill and chair Lynne Anderson insist the blue and whites will be salary cap compliant next year and that the situation isn’t as dire as many predicted. They still have five spots to fill in their top 30, but won’t won’t be able to spend much more than minimum wage to fill them.

The situation has arisen because their predecessors worked towards an estimated salary cap figure north of $10 million for the current season, when the actual figure – after months of collective bargaining agreement negotiations – landed on $9.4 million. The result is that between seven and ten players are on heavily back-ended contracts for next season, while five players – including James Graham and Sam Kasiano – are currently being paid to play for rivals.

The problem is compounded by the fact half a dozen players have ratchet clauses in their contracts, meaning their wages will increase by the same percentage as rises in the salary cap.

While Jack Cogger and Chris Smith will join the ‘family club’ next year, there is no room for marquee additions anytime soon. The club won’t be able to retain stalwarts Josh Morris, Brett Morris and Greg Eastwood when their contracts expire at season’s end.

“Absolutely, we have limitations as to what we can recruit and retain,” Hill said.

“We will get through this next period of 18 months because the club has got some wonderful, experienced people in significant roles.

“The combination of that experience – and the fact it’s a very strong club with great foundations, we’re open and transparent with our members – we have to get through this little hurdle.

“Once we get past it, the future is incredibly bright. I’m not looking backwards or what’s happening in the past. We’ve got a challenge and we’re rolling up our sleeves.

“It’s a great challenge to be involved with because once the club gets through this, it’s incredibly exciting times.”

In a bid to ensure the debacle is never repeated, the club has implemented a new series of signing protocols. Ratchet clauses will be outlawed in future deals and back-ended contracts, where players are paid significantly more in the later years of their ts, will be avoided. If any future contract is back-ended in the final year for an amount of more than $100,000, board approval must be sought.

Many of the issues arose because previous coach Des Hasler had too much say over his roster and recruitment wasn’t kept in check by board or management. Going forward, coach Dean Pay will still have a big say on the players he wants to attract or keep, but will be prevented from directly negotiating with players or their managers. Pay will also retain a spot on a recruitment and retention committee that includes Hill, director Chris Anderson, football general manager Andrew Farrar, recruiter Warren McDonald and CFO Vince Costa.

Rival clubs have been circling like vultures, hoping they will benefit from Canterbury’s cap squeeze. The club stressed that it was not shopping any of it’s big-money stars around, although they will inevitably have to consider any reasonable offers. Moses Mbye and David Klemmer are the most attractive targets for rivals.

Anderson, the daughter of Bulldogs patriarch Peter ‘Bullfrog’ Moore, and husband Chris Anderson have been at the club when it had emerged from similarly tough times.

“We’ve been here before,” she said. “I’m old enough to remember when my dad came in and the challenges he had on the back of his reform ticket.

“There were tough times in the ‘80s in the club as well and certainly when Chris came in for his first coaching job following two successful coaches in Warren Ryan and Phil Gould, a lot of players left.

“What they did is sat down with the then-chief executive and mapped out a plan. Everyone knows where that ended.

“I was at the heart of Super League battles as well. We know hard times and we know this club rolls its sleeves up. We’re at our best with backs to the walls. We will get through.”

Following the departure of Josh Reynolds, Marcelo Montoya remains the only Bulldogs regular who had come through the junior ranks. Hill said the focus would shift back to becoming a development club that promotes talent from within, but conceded it would take time for the strategy to bear fruit.

“This is a long play,” Hill said. “You don’t change the course of a ship overnight. To implement us being a development club will take multiple years and a lot of commitment. We just have to get on with doing the job.

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