‘We let players go seven years ago and never recovered’: Why Richo will fight to keep Tigers stars

‘We let players go seven years ago and never recovered’: Why Richo will fight to keep Tigers stars Tigers rookie Lachlan Galvin.

Wests Tigers chief executive Shane Richardson has declared the club will have $2 million of salary cap space to enter the player market next year if prop Stefano Utoikamanu turns down a five-year extension.

The Tigers boss also sent a warning shot to rival NRL clubs eyeing boom playmaker Lachlan Galvin, as he prepares to sit down with the teenager’s family this week to convince them his future is at the joint venture club.

Richardson recently returned to Australia after a two-week trip to the United Kingdom, where he tried to arrange deals with Super League clubs for some of the players the Tigers are willing to offload. Several players have been presented with offers, but have yet to agree terms.

During his trip away the club tabled a five-year, $4 million deal to Utoikamanu in the hope of negating a State of Origin and top-eight clause in his current contract that could result in him become a free agent in the coming weeks.

A clause in Utoikamanu’s contract allows him to become a free agent in 2025 if the Tigers miss the top eight in 2023 and 2024. The Tigers finished with the wooden spoon last year and are running last this season.

However, the free agency clause will be void if Utoikamanu represents NSW twice by the end of 2024. Utoikamanu played one game for NSW in last year’s Origin series.

“If he rejects our offer I’ll know we’re in trouble,” Richardson said. “If he does, it makes me a very rich man. I’ve got a million dollars in salary cap at the moment, if Stefano leaves I’ll have another million dollars in the salary cap. I’ll be a very dangerous man in the marketplace.

That’s not what we want. What we want is Stefano to stay. I want to work our way through that. Hanging around until the end of the season is not the way to go.”

The Tigers are bracing for Utoikamanu’s agent to request permission to negotiate with rival clubs if the prop forward misses out on State of Origin selection in game two.

More pressing is the future of Galvin, whose manager last week lodged the latest of many release attempts over the past few months.

“Well, he’s got a contract, it’s very simple. He’s got two more years under contract, and we intend to keep him to the contract,” Richardson said.

“This club let players go away seven years ago and we’ve never recovered. I’m going to see his mum and dad this week. And I’ll have a chat with them about it all and where he’s going. But some of the promises I’ve made to him since I got here have been kept. He’s in first grade. He’s at five eighth, which I think they doubted he would be.

“There’s a whole lot of head banging in his ears. He’s become great overnight and a champion and I understand that and then everybody’s in his ear saying, ‘You could be here’. I will say this to any club out there that thinks they can chase Lachie Galvin: There’s a thing called anti-tampering.

“And if you think for one minute, for one minute, I won’t to take it to the NRL, you’re kidding yourself. No doubt it’s happening. But I’ve got to get proof. But if I get proof, we’ll take it to them.”

Richardson insists the team’s position at the foot of the ladder is where he expected them to be at this stage, given the lack of depth in the roster.

However, he believes the arrival of Jarome Luai will be the circuit-breaker.

“No doubt,” he said. “Are you kidding? Have you seen him play? [People saying] that he couldn’t play halfback and won’t lead the team around. He’s killed it in two game at halfback [for Penrith]. He’s playing better than he did at five eighth. He wants to be a leader on the field. He wants to lead players around.

“Jarome Luai is a once-in-a-lifetime halfback. This club was so fortunate to have got him. Then we get the speed on the wing with Turuva. We’ve got some great young kids out wide coming through.

“We’re not in a bad space whatsoever. We’ll fight our way back. No one ever believed Souths would be great again, but they were. Hopefully, Galvin could lead us, like [John] Sutton did, into that greatness.”

  • https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/we-let-players-go-seven-years-ago-and-never-recovered-why-richo-will-fight-to-keep-tigers-stars/ar-BB1nWqUX?ocid=00000000

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