When Ivan Cleary arrived at Wests Tigers, he said in his first press conference that he wanted only players who "were on the bus" and, as far as he was concerned, those who didn't want to be on the bus could get off. Clearly Mitchell Moses is not happy on the bus -- he wants to get off and onto a train departing immediately for Parramatta -- yet Cleary is reluctant to release him. Strange, that.
This position adds to a long list of poorly managed press conferences and mixed messages coming out of the Tigers. They failed to handle the whole Robbie Farah / Jason Taylor debacle professionally and in the correct manner, and now they are stumbling through the Moses saga.
One of the key reasons clubs like Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos have been so successful for so long is that they operate very professionally. Player movements and contract negotiations are all managed out of the public eye, and there are no media-driven distractions from within those clubs. That's why Wayne Bennett was fuming when the Sharks announced Jack Bird's move, before the 10-day cooling off period had expired, which would have seen the Broncos in trouble with the NRL had they done it. It was unprofessional.
In the stands, fans can struggle to get their head around the thought of barracking for a player who has declared he will be moving on at the end of the season -- sometimes before the season has even begun. When a player makes it known that he wants out immediately, the fans have to question whether his passion is going to be there for the rest of the season. And that's why the whole player market process needs to be assessed and re-examined. The AFL's end-of-season draft system is much more attractive for the clubs and fans, with all the signings happening in the off season: That system certainly stops all the speculation about whether a player is truly committed to his current club, but it can be rough on the players, though, with such a short time to relocate if they are moving.
There are big advantages with the current NRL system for the players. Career security in rugby league is pretty hard to get and to know exactly where you'll be playing each year is very reassuring. If a player has to move, possibly interstate, being able to organise all that is very important; especially for those with families. I know when I went from the Storm to the Northern Eagles, I felt a lot of relief knowing that my future was settled. I was able to take some time to pick out the right house and arrange all the details that come with such a big move. There were absolutely no problems with the Storm management, coaching staff or players. It was handled very professionally.
Mitchell Moses is an outstanding football player, and I'd play him at halfback where he would be able to showcase all his skills. He is the player the Tigers should have been most desperate to re-sign. For whatever reasons, he has decided that his future is with the Eels and the Tigers have lost a great talent.
The Tigers should have put all theirs efforts into re-signing James Tedesco and Aaron Woods, but it now seems they will lose both, as the Roosters and Bulldogs have pounced. They have announced that Chris McQueen will be joining them next year from the Titans, but the time has come for them to make a commitment to becoming a more professional organisation and to let their fans know exactly where they are heading and what they stand for.