NRL player agent Isaac Moses has hit back at detractors, namely Ricky Stuart, over the John Bateman contract saga which threatens to de-rail Canberra’s season.
Moses, who rarely issues public statements, defended the way Bateman’s release was handled with the Raiders, confirming it was the club who added a clause to his contract that stipulated both player and club “sit down and revisit his salary each year – a contract I had nothing to do with.”
“My job is to look after the best interests of my clients, which I have always done, without fear or favour,” Moses said in a statement sent to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Moses has copped plenty of heat from Stuart over the negotiations, with the coach leveling his anger at the agent rather than Bateman, for the 2019 Dally M second-rower’s exit.
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The day Bateman informed the Raiders he would not be remaining with the club in 2021, Stuart slammed “certain managers” for manipulating clubs.
The Raiders are peeved that Bateman is off to greener pastures because they paid a £200,000 ($358,000) transfer fee to his former club Wigan to bring him to Canberra, only for him to leave with one season remaining on his contract.
Moses, who represents over 50 NRL players and coaches, including Cameron Smith, said he stands by his representation of the Englishman.
“On 24 February I met with [Canberra CEO] Don Furner, Ricky Stuart and John in Canberra to discuss John’s future at the Raiders,” Moses said.
“At that meeting Don advised the club were in salary cap trouble. 2021 was very tight and they were in the process of trying to re-sign other players in addition to John. 2022 was worse, they weren’t going to be able to afford him at all.
“After that meeting, on 11 March I received an email from Don giving permission for John to talk to other clubs as the Raiders weren’t in a position to accommodate him long term.
“To Don’s credit, he always said he didn’t want to stand in John’s way should he wish to look at other opportunities for the betterment of his young family.
“He made it clear the club isn’t in the habit of letting good players go, but was honest about the difficulties of managing their roster off the back of a grand final, with unanticipated Origin bonuses to also factor in.”
Moses’ future in the NRL is a little murky after the NRL last month announced an intention to cancel his registration, but he has appealed the finding.
The player agent claims he’s just doing his job and believes he’s become the scapegoat in Bateman’s exit from Canberra.
He pointed out that coaches have also left club’s mid-contract – Stuart being one of them. While not mentioning the Raiders coach specifically- it was widely reported at the time Stuart exercised a get out clause in his deal with Parramatta in 2013 to join the Raiders.
“I respect Ricky Stuart. He was a great player and is a great coach. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is entitled to his opinion like everyone else,” Moses said.
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“At the same time, it was Canberra who agreed a clause in John’s current deal to sit down and revisit his salary each year – a contract I had nothing to do with.
“Player movement happens both ways, such is the nature of professional sport. Look around the NRL – in virtually every single team, including the Raiders, there are players who were signed whilst under contract with other clubs.
“When a club decides to move on a player who is under contract it barely gets a mention, but it happens, far more regularly than the other way around.
“A number of head coaches have moved to other clubs mid-contract in recent years for a variety of reasons, of their own accord.”
After Bateman announced he was leaving the club, Stuart said he was proud of the way the Raiders handled the matter because “the last thing we are going to be is a club such as the Broncos or Warriors where they’ve been ruined by agitation and manipulation of the roster.”
Moses has nine players at the Broncos and four at the Warriors while representing coaches on both teams.
The Raiders coach spoke to WWOS radio on Wednesday, discussing possible ways for clubs to strangle back some control during negotiations with players. While he didn’t agree with a national draft, he said there are other ways of tackling the problem.
“I think there’s cause there for a discussion about it (draft), but I think there’s other avenues … to find a better system.
“Don’t forget, there’s a lot of managers out there who are really good blokes [and] do a really good job for their clients.
“My manager, the late John Fordham, was one of my best friends, and when players ask me about my opinion on this manager or that manager, I say ‘mate, go with the guy you trust the most’.”