Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco has reneged on a $2million three-year deal at Canberra, Raiders captain Terry Campese fearing players and managers will continue to exploit the controversial round 13 rule unless the NRL provides more rewards for junior development and club loyalty.
The Raiders were shocked by Tedescso's backflip and club officials bunkered down on Wednesday night, Raiders chief executive Don Furner responding only by text, saying: "We are bitterly disappointed at the way it was handled."
Tedesco's decision will rock Canberra's recruitment plans, having narrowly missed out on potential marquee recruits Kevin Proctor, Josh Mansour and Michael Ennis in the past week.
But Tedesco's snub will hit hardest, given he was viewed as a fit replacement for star outgoing fullback Anthony Milford.
Campese acknowledged the Raiders exploited the round 13 rule last year when Canberra convinced Australian Kangaroos forward Josh Papalii to backflip on a three-year deal at Parramatta, then led by now-Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.
The Raiders also tried to convince Milford to renege on a two-year contract at the Brisbane Broncos, although he has since confirmed he will commit to that deal from 2015.
But Campese said the round 13 rule, which allows a player to back out on a deal before that round of fixtures and stay at their current club, was a bad look for the game.
Campese said compensation for locally-developed juniors in the salary cap could stop the temptation of players and managers shopping themselves to other clubs, only to bump up their value at their current club. The Tigers have denied increasing their offer to keep Tedesco.
"It's just disappointing because [Tedesco's] a class player and obviously the Tigers now know what they're losing, so probably threw a bit more cash at him to keep him there," Campese said.
"It's definitely something the NRL has to look at so players don't do this in the future. It's happened a few times to a few different clubs now. I can remember Nathan Smith did it to us a few years ago with Penrith and Luke Lewis [also at Penrith] did it with Souths. Lots of clubs have been affected by it. It's something the NRL has to look over."
Campese empathised with Tedesco, a Tigers junior, to a point. Campese admitted he'd almost left the Raiders for Japanese rugby or a rival NRL club when he negotiated his last contract.
The Raiders and Tigers are two clubs threatening to cut junior development funding because there is no concession for it in the salary cap.
"I was close to leaving. But when it gets closer to signing the deal you know where your heart wants to be, I guess he's in the same situation," Campese said of Tedesco.
"In the end I knew it didn't have anything to do with money. The reason I ended up staying is because it's where all my family was, and it's the club I loved growing up.
"There should be better compensation for it, I've been at the club for so many years and I don't think the club gets rewarded for having player loyalty."
The Raiders are cashed up for 2015, but even that is not helping their recruitment at the moment. Other outside backs linked to the Raiders include Manly's Clinton Gutherson, Cronulla's Nathan Gardner, the Roosters' Tautau Moga and Tigers winger Marika Koroibete.
"It's a couple of weeks negotiations that the Raiders could have missed out on with other players," Campese said of Tedesco's late backflip.
Raiders vice-captain Brett White praised Stuart for the attempts he'd made to improve club culture and re-sign juniors, but he admitted it was proving difficult to attract players outside the club.
"It was disappointing losing [Milford], but then having another exciting player heading to the club eased that pain a bit. Now I don't know where it leaves everything, [it's] a bit of a rollercoaster," White said.
"Ricky's only been here a short time, but what he's building, I think the results will come and the whole recruitment problem or issues will change as the culture starts to change. That's a big focus of Ricky's and hopefully we'll start to see the results sooner rather than later, but it's not good at the moment."
The story Terry Campese calls for NRL to reward club loyalty after James Tedesco backflip first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.