Monday Buzz: Siosifa Talakai, Kotoni Staggs Origin battle, Josh Jackson’s Bulldogs career in jeopardy

With Latrell Mitchell sidelined, NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will have his eyes firmly on Siosifa Talakai and Kotoni Staggs when they go head-to-head in Round 8, writes PHIL ROTHFIELD.

Thursday night’s Broncos v Sharks game will feature arguably the best one-on-one showdown of the year.

The Broncos’ right centre Kotoni Staggs against the Sharks left side wrecking machine Siosifa Talakai.

Blues coach Brad Fittler will no doubt be watching this closely as he edges towards naming a NSW State of Origin team.

Talakai should at the very least be the first player chosen on the interchange bench.

I can’t recall such a big unit being versatile enough to play front-row, as an edge forward or as a centre.

And it’s not just his size and power. He has speed, he can step and he can kick.

Staggs is a bit sharper. It will be a colossal contest.

Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free In Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >

Siosifa Talakai will go head-to-head with Kotoni Staggs when the Broncos take on Cronulla in Round 8.
Siosifa Talakai will go head-to-head with Kotoni Staggs when the Broncos take on Cronulla in Round 8.

CULT BULLDOG FACES AXE IN GOULD OVERHAUL

Some columns are more difficult to write than others.

This is one of them about the ruthless business of managing a rugby league salary cap and the need for a footy club to move on a great servant.

Josh Jackson has been the heart and soul of the Canterbury Bulldogs for a decade.

A former NSW Blues State of Origin workhorse and as wholehearted as any player in the competition. A club legend over 11 years and 224 games.

The Bulldogs must make a tough decision on Josh Jackson (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
The Bulldogs must make a tough decision on Josh Jackson (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

That we are even talking about a man of Jackson’s stature and the ramifications of a salary squeeze at Belmore is sad.

The Bulldogs have Reed Mahoney and Billy Kikau arriving at Belmore next year on huge money.

They are trying to upgrade Matt Burton to a more realistic market value than what his current contract is worth or he’ll take up his option at the end of next season to move to another club.

And this is where it gets difficult.

There is no question general manager of football Phil Gould will have to offload players.

He did it at Penrith when the likes of James Maloney and Trent Merrin were moved on early.

At Canterbury Corey Allan ($500,000) and Luke Thompson ($850,000) are on good money but not justifying their salaries.

Corey Allan is on $500,000. Picture: NRL Imagery
Corey Allan is on $500,000. Picture: NRL Imagery
Luke Thompson is on around $850,000.
Luke Thompson is on around $850,000.

Then there’s the conversation around Jackson ($750,000), their club captain.

It is not a one-off in rugby league.

Ricky Stuart is facing a similar dilemma with the great Jarrod Croker.

He’s 31, the same age as Jackson and in the same position where the game has become so fast and so explosive. It’s hard for these old boys to keep up.

The Rabbitohs had the same agonising decision to make with Adam Reynolds last year.

Reynolds didn’t want the sort of money Kalyn Ponga or Cameron Munster command.

He would have stayed at Souths for $700,000-a-season.

How do you tell such great clubmen that their time is up?

Surely, whatever happens, Jackson will have a job for life at Belmore.

Josh Jackson is a Canterbury great but could be forced out. Picture: Getty Images.
Josh Jackson is a Canterbury great but could be forced out. Picture: Getty Images.

There is a story from Friday night’s Bulldogs-Broncos game that best illustrates the Bulldogs’ predicament and brings urgency to the salary cap issues and the point of this column.

After the game, player manager Chris Haddad’s mobile phone rang hot.

He looks after rookie centre Jacob Kiraz, a youngster who earns just $1000 a week at Belmore.

Kiraz got an opportunity when Covid ripped through the Bulldogs’ ranks.

And he was outstanding, producing six tackle busts, 110 run metres and three offloads.

No prizes for guessing it was the recruitment managers from half a dozen clubs that sent Haddad’s mobile into meltdown at full-time.

Kiraz will try to remain loyal to Canterbury. They gave the 20-year-old an opportunity when others wouldn’t.

However the Dogs can’t pay him market value the way their cap is currently stretched.

Something has to give.

It’s brutal but it’s the only way to compete.

Canterbury GM of football Phil Gould is used to making the tough calls. Picture: NRL Imagery
Canterbury GM of football Phil Gould is used to making the tough calls. Picture: NRL Imagery

Originally published as Monday Buzz: Siosifa Talakai, Kotoni Staggs Origin battle, Josh Jackson’s Bulldogs career in jeopardy

Add your comment to this story

To join the conversation, please Don't have an account? Register

Join the conversation, you are commenting as Logout