City v Country
Who are the big winners?

Forget about the fulltime result in Sunday’s City vs. Country clash in Coffs Harbour. Nor pay any mind as to who may eventually gain NSW selection for their performance. These are not even close to being the real winners of the game.

Many NRL players have representative bonus incentives written into their contracts with their respective clubs. The more representative players a club has under its cap, the more of a premiership contender it is perceived to be, making it an appealing and exposure ripe option for attracting big dollar sponsorship. While representing City or Country will not hold the same value as representing one’s state or nation, players often celebrate regardless, simply due to the boost their profile receives.

For the twelve youngsters on representative debut, Curtis Sironen (19), Boyd Cordner (20), James Tedesco (20), Jack Wighton (20), Jorge Taufua (21), Ryan James (21), Alex McKinnon (21), Adam Reynolds (22), Sam Williams (22), Nathan Peats (22), Josh Jackson (22) and Wade Graham (22) earning their first representative jumper is a genuine accolade for them, however the real joy will come with the next contract they sign. For these twelve youngsters, being officially validated by the NRL as star players of the future, means the value of acquiring their signature has just taken a sharp rise.

Of the 34 players selected for both teams, four of them are off contract at the end of the season– Sam Williams, Joel Reddy, Aiden Tolman and Feleti Mateo. While Mateo and Tolman are already big dollar earners and can dictate their own terms, Sam Williams suddenly finds himself in line for a pay rise and Joel Reddy will no doubt be rejoicing.

Local Canberra Raiders’ junior Sam Williams debuted in first grade in 2011 after an injury to Matt Orford. By the end of the season Williams had cemented his spot due to a further injury to Terry Campese. Over the past couple of years, Raiders fans have seen more of the halves pairing of Josh McCrone and Sam Williams than that of their marquee pivot Terry Campese. With Campese successfully returning for the Raiders last round, it will be interesting to see what now becomes of Sam Williams.

Should the off contract Williams be relegated to the bench or back to NSW Cup, then you can bet the opposition clubs will come circling with their chequebooks. The shortage of talented halves in the NRL has been well documented; they are the most sought after players for most teams. Once the bidding begins, the Raiders will need to increase and match rival offers to retain Williams’ services. Suddenly Sam Williams now finds himself in a very interesting position indeed, one that will be most beneficial to his bank account.

Since leaving the Parramatta Eels in 2011 as an established first grade centre, Joel Reddy has failed to secure himself a regular starting position at the Wests Tigers. In his debut season for the Tigers, Reddy sporadically made 14 appearances, failing to make the team beyond round 20.

A similar pattern was shaping up for the 2013 season with Reddy named on the bench for round one. A neck injury to Matt Utai meant Reddy was elevated to the starting side for round two, and with a further injury to starting winger Marika Korobite, Reddy has managed to hold on to his position. At this stage Reddy remains unsigned for 2014 and beyond. Should the Tigers decided to not re-sign Joel Reddy for 2014, his manager will no doubt be shopping him around as a current representative centre.

And then there is the comeback of Tom Symonds. Relegated to starting the year with Newtown in the NSW Cup after finding himself outclassed for a starting position in the Sydney Roosters back row alongside Sonny Bill Williams, Boyd Cordner, Aiden Guerra, Luke O’Donnell, Mitchell Aubusson and Frank-Paul Nuusaula, Symonds was let go with the Manly Sea Eagles quickly snapping him up on a two-year deal.

Joining the Sea Eagles the week before the season started, Symonds was initially playing off the bench. By round three Geoff Toovey had promoted Symonds into the Manly starting pack to cover for the injured Glenn Stewart. Since given this opportunity, the red headed back rower hasn’t looked back, playing out of his skin. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed by City coach Brad Fittler, claiming Tom Symonds was his ‘first selection’ for the team. While his sign on amount has not been revealed, Symonds is now probably wishing he agreed to a one year deal, as there are no doubt plenty of clubs now suddenly interested in securing his services. Provided he remains fit and continues his run of form, come the end of his 2014 contract he will be doubling the amount he is currently on.

So while many of the game’s figureheads are calling for an end to the City vs. Country clash, you can bet many of the NRL’s younger players can see the real dollar value in retaining the game.