By Jake Beleski
Earning $10.9m over 10 years might be a good decade’s work for most people, but Jason Taumalolo will likely live to regret it.
The New Zealand-born North Queensland Cowboys wrecking ball will become one of the highest-paid players in the NRL from next season after signing a 10-year contract — one of the longest in the game’s history — to stay with the Townsville club.
There is no disputing the fact 23-year-old Taumalolo is currently the most dominant forward in the game, and worth every cent of the deal at this stage of his career.
But there are so many variables over a contract of that length, and I believe at least one will come back to haunt him.
The one that could be felt first is the looming retirement of the greatest player the game has ever seen, Johnathan Thurston.
There is no denying Taumalolo owes a great deal of his success to the Cowboys’ current marquee player, with the duo forming one of the most lethal pairings in NRL history.
But at 33 years old, you have to question how much longer Thurston has left.
He has already stated his desire to retire from representative rugby league after this season to focus on finishing his career with the Cowboys, but even if he lasts another three or four years, Taumalolo will still have at least six to run on his contract.
The Cowboys are placing all their eggs in one basket, in the hope Taumalolo will be able to carry the club on his enormous shoulders once Thurston hangs up his boots, but only time will tell if he can handle that kind of pressure on his own.
The other concern, from Taumalolo’s point of view at least, should be the overall value of the deal.
On paper it looks incredible, but in reality it is quite normal for top players to earn in the vicinity of $1m per season.
The concern should be that if he continues to dominate the game the way he has in recent seasons, he could have potentially demanded far greater money on shorter contracts.
The timing is also strange, with a record $1.8 billion broadcast deal set to bring more money into the game than ever before from 2018 onwards.
The players have been working towards a collective bargaining agreement to ensure they receive a fair chunk of the revenue, and Taumalolo’s contract means he may miss out on a massive pay increase.
Signing a 10-year contract was a loyal move from one of the game’s best players, but I can’t see the logic.