NRL 2022: Parramatta urged to table Dylan Brown an offer as five-eighth looks set to test open market
Dylan Brown’s management have met with Parramatta about the star five-eighth’s future, as he moves to join a slew of high-profile playmakers set to test their value on the open market.
Dylan Brown’s management have urged Parramatta to table an offer as the high-flying five-eighth prepares to test the open market from November 1.
News Corp understands Brown’s management met with the Eels earlier this week to discuss the 22-year-old’s future at the club.
The Eels are unlikely to lock in any extension before the end of the season with the pivot putting off any personal extension talks until after the Rugby League World Cup.
While the news might sound worrying to Eels fans given rivals will be able to make play for Brown, it’s understood the club is quietly confident of keeping the New Zealand international, who is a retention priority beyond 2023.
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It’s believed Brown’s preference is to stay in western Sydney, where he is close to family and friends.
Parramatta are in a healthy salary cap position and are able to accommodate an upgrade to Brown’s current deal.
Also in Parramatta’s favour is the slated increase to the salary cap under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is expected to rise to around $12 million from 2023.
“My manager would have communicated that (to the Eels) to leave me alone until the season is done,” Brown said.
“I just don’t like it. I’d rather not sort that stuff out (during the season).
“Any distraction is a bad distraction when you are playing footy.”
Brown will join a slew of high-profile playmakers set to test their value on the open market including Adam Doueihi, Jackson Hastings, Cameron Munster, Cody Walker, Luke Brooks, Ben Hunt, Sam Walker, Lachlan Ilias, Shaun Johnson, Jake Clifford and Kyle Flanagan.
Being in the shop front window could not have come at a better time for Brown, who has been a standout in coach Brad Arthur’s outfit this season.
Brown’s 14 try assists so far in 2022 have already surpassed his total try assists over the first three seasons of his NRL career.
The new-found confidence in his ability has helped to unlock the potential of his running game and turned Brown into a genuine attacking threat for the Eels.
“The last couple of years … I have always been, not afraid, but I would second guess myself,” Brown said.
“I feel like you have got to go with your gut feeling sometimes and just be confident in what you are doing.
“You’re not getting selected in an NRL team to second guess yourself and not be confident.
“I’m in the team for a reason. Brad is trying to drive that into me. I feel like the more ball I get the better the left edge will go.”
The change in Brown has not been lost on his teammates.
Backrower Isaiah Papali’i revealed the normally shy Brown has found his voice and is no longer afraid to demand the ball ahead of halfback Mitchell Moses and fullback Clint Gutherson.
“I see him demanding the ball a lot more, getting the ball in his hands … when he has the ball in his hands he is a threat,” Papali’i said.
“He has been building into that role as a half and assisting Moey (Moses).
“But this season, he is over calling Moey and is understanding that he is a crucial part of the team. When he is running the ball, putting Shawny (Lane) into a hole, that is when we go well.
“That’s the biggest difference I have seen in him and I guess that is a part of his growth, that he understands how much he means to the players and the whole team.”
Eels rookie leaves door open for code switch
Boom Parramatta rookie Will Penisini won’t “close the door” on a code switch after Rugby Australia revealed it is preparing to up the ante on an NRL talent raid.
Last month, RA chair Hamish McLennan declared Sydney Roosters prodigy Joseph Suaalii headlines a hit list of NRL stars on the radar of the Wallabies ahead of the 2027 Rugby Union World Cup.
Penisini and Suaalii were products of the prestige GPS rugby system having played together at The King’s School before choosing the glitz and glamour of the NRL.
Penisini has not only established himself in coach Brad Arthur’s outfit but emerged as the brightest prospect to come through Parramatta’s junior pathways in recent years. But a potential switch back to union, and the lure of the Wallabies, is a possibility for Penisini.
“I’m not closing the door on rugby union,” Penisini said.
“Right now, I am content with where I am at Parramatta and I’m loving rugby league at the moment. I am just at the start of my career and I want to build my game and focus on playing consistent footy for Parramatta and try not to look too far ahead about the decision between rugby league or rugby union.”
The Eels have been so impressed with Penisini, the club is working to secure his services beyond season 2023.
The 20-year-old is due for an upgraded deal and is off-contract from November 1, where he can field offers from rival clubs, and rugby union.
After losing crucial cogs in hooker Reed Mahoney to Canterbury and Isaiah Papali’i to the Wests Tigers, Parramatta are hoping to lock in halves pairing Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown, as well as Penisini, before rivals can swoop in on their most high-profile players.
But any extension talks with Penisini are unlikely to progress before the season’s end.
“There are some great people here and some great coaching staff,” Penisini said.
“To be honest, I’m not too sure where all the contract stuff is at the moment but I have left that up to my management to deal with. I just want to focus on the job we have right now and that’s playing good footy and the finals.”
While Penisini’s willingness to entertain a future switch to union might have RA officials salivating at the prospect, McLennan will have to work a lot harder to entice Suaalii to make the move back to the 15-man game.
With a private equity deal to fill the coffers of RA, McLennan is preparing to throw an open cheque book at Suaalii to join the Wallabies as well as using the 2025 British & Irish Lions tour and 2027 World Cup as bait.
Suaalii reportedly has a get-out clause, which allows him to swap clubs or codes at the end of each season, in his current Roosters deal but the 19-year old was coy when asked about the nature of the deal.
“I don’t know about any of that stuff,” Suaalii said. “I love this club, I love the Roosters and everyone here. I don’t think I want to leave for a long time (for rugby union). I haven’t looked that far ahead, honestly.”
For Penisini, the chance to play in the Origin arena, rugby league’s pinnacle, could be enough to keep the rising centre in the NRL and at Parramatta.
Penisini played for the NSW under-16s and 18s sides before joining Blues coach Brad Fittler’s Future Blues squad late last year, a strong indication the Hills District junior is firmly in the frame for future Origin selection.
“It would be a dream to be able to play Origin,” he said.
“We had an under-21s camp last year and I met Freddy and we had a chat there about things … obviously NSW have a lot of talent in the outside backs at the moment, the likes of Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell, who are playing at centre.
“I am still young and finding my feet but it is a dream of mine to wear the Sky Blue jersey.”
NO. 1 REASON FOR ROOSTERS TO WORRY ABOUT SUAALII’S FUTURE
You have to admire the chutzpah of Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan. Rugby union has been a sport adrift in recent years but suddenly, a bullish McLennan has decided to get on the front foot.
First he set his sights on New Zealand rugby as he threatened to blow up the broadcasting agreement in what was tantamount to a cash grab.
Then he went after rugby league. In the space of a few weeks, McLennan has spoken about RA’s interest in Canterbury five-eighth Matt Burton, suggesting his booming boot would make him a star in rugby union.
Then he flagged a pursuit of Sydney Roosters sensation Joseph Suaalii, talking about rugby union’s great regret at losing the teenager to rugby league. You had to laugh.
For starters, Suaalii wasn’t rugby union’s to lose. He didn’t grow up dreaming of being a Wallaby or eyeing off World Cups.
He’s a leaguie from Sydney’s western suburbs who switched codes when he went to high school after being offered a scholarship by The King’s School. Even then, he would show up at his old rugby league club during the week to help coach the kids.
Chances are rugby union wasn’t even on his radar until King’s came calling. It certainly wasn’t on his radar a few years back when there was a clamour for his services. Suaalii sat down with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, listened to what he had to say, and then signed a long-term deal with the Roosters.
People close to the club suggest he couldn’t be happier with his decision. He certainly looks like a bloke at peace with his call given the way he played against Brisbane on Thursday night.
He made his first grade debut last year under a blazing spotlight but has arguably exceeded the expectations. Suaalii ran for more than 100 meters and scored yet another try against the Broncos, prompting more lyrical waxing from a host of rugby league experts about his potential.
He was on the verge of playing State of Origin this year and is likely to be part of Mal Meninga’s squad for the World Cup at the end of the year. Rugby league is in his blood, not rugby union.
The landscape has dramatically changed since the likes of Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri switched codes two decades or so ago. The days of rugby union enjoying prominence are a thing of the past, although credit to McLennan for trying to reignite the sport.
Back then, they could go toe-to-toe with NRL clubs. They can’t any more. And even with an injection of private equity, they will find it hard to match what Burton and Suaalii can earn in the NRL.
Burton is expected to head on the open market on November 1 and the bidding will start at $800,000 a season. Even that may not be enough to get the Bulldogs five-eighth and his management to the table.
Chances are at some point his next contract will send his wages north of $1 million given he has become a State of Origin squad member and is short odds to make his Australian debut at the World Cup later in the year.
Suaalii’s situation is complicated by the wealth of talent at the Roosters. He is on a modest contract at the moment but should he head to market on November 1, it would be no surprise if NRL clubs weigh in with offers north of $1 million a season.
The Roosters won’t want that to happen but they have a tight cap and Suaalii’s preferred position is occupied by a bloke named James Tedesco. If the Roosters want to keep Suaalii for the long term, something has to give.
Perhaps the Roosters will allow Tedesco, their captain, to return to the Wests Tigers. Maybe Luke Keary leaves when his contract is up at the end of 2024 and the Roosters try Suaali at five-eighth.
If they want to keep him, they need to find a home for him somewhere other than on the wing. If that can’t happen, only then you imagine would Suaalii contemplate leaving the Roosters.
Rugby union will join the queue and the sense is that they will be at the back rather than the front. There was a time when McLennan’s comments would have driven rugby league types to distraction. Nervous chief executives would start calling for salary cap exemptions to ward off rugby union.
Head office would whip themselves into a frenzy. Stories would abound of the code being decimated by rugby union raids.
Not any more. McLennan’s comments just prompted a rolling of eyes. Rugby union stopped being a threat to rugby league years ago.
Kudos to McLennan for attempting to get the sport back on the radar. But to steal a line from The Castle, tell him he’s dreaming.
STADIUM SHAMBLES LEAVES NRL CLUBS IN LIMBO
The NSW government and premier Dominic Perrottet should hang their head in shame. They have become an embarrassment.
The stadium fiasco and the government’s decision to renege on an agreement to renovate suburban grounds has left a handful of clubs wondering where their future lies.
The Wests Tigers have vowed to remain loyal to Leichhardt Oval but even they concede the ground is antiquated and borderline dangerous.
Rugby league and the NRL have moved beyond venues like Leichhardt in its current state.
The state government may have signed its death warrant this week, although the Tigers and NRL will continue to campaign for funds to bring it up to date.
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Manly, meanwhile, has been left to rot for years. So too Shark Park. Suburban grounds are a lifeblood for rugby league clubs and their fans.
Those very fans need to remember this week when the election comes round. The state government has broken a promise to the NRL. How can they be trusted in the future?