Player negotiations - tough calls to be made

EWEN MCKENZIE
Last updated 06:59 04/05/2012
Will Genia
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax Media
STAYING RED: Will Genia has done an about-face, having previously agreed terms with the Force.

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OPINION: Only a week ago I was having my umpteenth meeting with Will Genia and/or his manager trying to sort out our negotiations.

Since this time there has been a lot of ''expert'' opinion and discussion around the topic. Certain media personalities become expert analysts projecting their opinion as fact. We operate in a fishbowl and there are always plenty of people looking in and casting judgment, but I can assure that not many truly understand the inner workings of player contract negotiations and the effort and frequency of communication that goes into it.

As a negotiator you need to be subjective and objective, and you need to make the hard calls. That's the job. That also means you are going to have those in the cheap seats watching and throwing their two cents in at every turn.

The media would have you believe there are conspiracy theories and hidden agendas intertwined within their Hollywood script. But the truth is that Will made one of the few massive decisions he will make during his life, and valued loyalty and remaining in Queensland over other factors.

Making career choices that both excite and disappoint thousands of people is not something many people are forced to deal with in their life and that's why it's important not to judge Will for either decision as ultimately he is the one who would need to live with it.

After four months of discussions with Will, my parting words to him on Friday night, when he confirmed he had chosen to leave for the Force, were that he needed to make a good decision for himself, and make sure his girlfriend, Vanessa, was OK with the idea.

There was no bad blood. It was quite the opposite. I wasn't going to punish him for making a difficult decision. We then shook hands.

As coaches we spend our lives trying to get players to make the right decisions, but there are always many things in the mixing pot that influence the situation.

For instance, I am going to have a massive phone bill next month for the amount of time I spent in New Zealand communicating with our CEO, chairman, media manager, player manager and journalists. The list goes on, but each of those people have input. When their positions change, it must then be reflected in communication and amended strategies.

I mention player managers because you are not just managing Will's decision - you are managing the ripple effect as well.

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If Will stayed, then other players in our squad may be targeted elsewhere instead. If Will went, then other options and opportunities would open up.

It's a complicated beast made even more difficult by deadlines placed on offers and the sheer volume of decisions that need to be made.

The media love all this and spend their time trying to get ''exclusives'', which takes up even more time when considering there was the core activity of winning a difficult game in a place we had never won before - Eden Park.

I've been through high-profile negotiations that have attracted massive media scrutiny - Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers, Wendell Sailor, Andrew Johns, Mark Gasnier and Timana Tahu are just a few.

I can assure you the negotiations are all different. There was plenty of fishbowl stuff with the names just mentioned and they were all big news because of the rugby league element.

The wheel has now turned and the scrutiny is on rugby's own products. Matt Giteau, Quade Cooper, James O'Connor and Will are some of the more recent rugby challenges. The only thing they have in common is that they all consume an enormous amount of time and there is heavy scrutiny that invokes emotions. This can be both good and bad.

The weekend saw the wheel turn again and pleasingly Will reflected on the totality of the decision and put a high price on enjoyment, camaraderie and the love of what he knows - the Reds. I say the same thing all the time - "make it the right decision".

I am very confident he will ''make it the right decision'', beginning this Sunday when the caravan rolls on against the Crusaders in Christchurch. It's not an enviable task, but neither was winning at Eden Park for the first time.

There is a confidence returning to the Reds that you can sense is giving us more optimism. We have been able to find a way to overcome the Crusaders during the last few years. This is important as some teams have not been able to find the key.

This week we return to Christchurch's Peppers Clearwater Resort for our stay, as every other hotel we have stayed in is now in ruins. It will be a bitter visit for that reason, but I am hoping that our Clearwater stay is a good omen. Last time, I was there as a coach in 2004 we had a record victory against the Crusaders.

I could go into it more but that phone has started to ring ... again! I wonder who it is this time?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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