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Canterbury chief executive Raelene Castle has defended her handling of the Andrew Fifita contract saga, revealing the NRL has cleared the club of any wrongdoing.
Fifita has signed a lucrative four-year contract with Cronulla but the fallout from the deal which fell over with the Bulldogs continues to make headlines.
Details of the memorandum of understanding – which would have made him the highest-paid Bulldog in history – and sections of the contract he signed with the Bulldogs have been leaked.
While the MOU outlined a deal worth $800,000 a year and $3.2 million in total, the Nine Network aired parts of that and the contract proper, which stipulated he would earn $375,000 next year, $425,000 in 2016, $650,000 in 2017 and $675,000 in the final year. That amounts to more than $1 million less than the agreed amount.
Castle, whose signature was on the contract, is comfortable with how the matter has been handled at her end.
“The NRL are comfortable with the documentation we have provided and will not be taking any further investigations,” Castle said.
“We won’t play out our commercial discussions in the media. We always work to handle everything professionally at every level.
“I continue to point to the joint press release in which they were comfortable with the situation, it was approved by them and included a quote from them when it was sent.”
Castle’s last remark refers to a joint statement issued late last month which revealed the transfer wouldn’t happen, despite both parties previously trumpeting the ”signing” news.
In that statement, Castle said: “After signing a memorandum of understanding with Andrew we’ve not been able to agree on the final terms of his NRL playing contract and have ceased negotiations with his management.
“We wish Andrew all the best for the future. Andrew’s now free to go and look at rugby union if that’s what he wants to do.’’
Fifita’s management group, I.am Athlete management, added: “Andrew is disappointed that we could not finalise terms with the Bulldogs but we still have several options to explore.”
Since then, it’s been suggested Fifita’s legal team would sue the Bulldogs for lost earnings.
“They are not suing us, we have not received any formal legal advice from Fifita’s management,” Castle said.
High-level playing contracts such as the one offered to Fifita usually include three elements – the portion paid under the salary cap, the marquee player allowance and the third-party agreements. Under salary cap rules the latter cannot be guaranteed by clubs. However, it’s understood all Bulldogs players promised TPAs have received those entitlements over the past five years and the club was confident Fifita would receive all monies promised in the MOU.
The club will now channel its energies on other recruitment and retention priorities, including skipper Michael Ennis and promising prop Lloyd Perrett, who are both off contract at the end of the year. The latter will be representing Queensland in the NYC State of Origin clash on Saturday despite the fact his brother, Bulldogs fullback Sam, represents New Zealand.
“I put a bit of pressure on myself, I knew what people would think of me if I chose Australia when my brother plays for New Zealand,” Perrett said.
“At the end of the day, my mentors at the Bulldogs and my dad said the only person I need to answer for myself is me. I’m happy with the decision I made so I can represent where I grew up.”
Asked about the prospect of one day opposing Sam in a Test match, Perrett said: “That would be crazy. It would be pretty cool, I’m not sure if it’s ever been done before. That would be an awesome experience.”
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