Another one bites the dust... Aaron Woods leaves the Bulldogs. Picture: David Swift
Another one bites the dust... Aaron Woods leaves the Bulldogs. Picture: David Swift

Bulldogs ‘terrifying’ salary cap reality

EVEN after splashing out on Aaron Woods coach Shane Flanagan insists Cronulla's salary cap can accommodate off-contract veterans Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen next season should they play on.

Flanagan "stuck to his guns" on what he believed was a reasonable price to purchase the prop from cap-squeezed Canterbury just months into a four-year deal at Belmore.

Woods signed with the Bulldogs for a reported $900,000 a season but will get in the vicinity of $600,000 to $650,000 a year for his three and a half years at the Sharks, with his former club to top up his salary for the next two seasons.

The deals to move on both Woods and Moses Mbye will continue to haunt the Bulldogs, who will be salary cap hamstrung until 2021 according to Paul Kent.

"They were going to be salary cap compliant (in 2019) but it essentially meant they had to sign six or seven players on minimum wage ($100,000) next year," Kent told NRL 360.

"By getting rid of Aaron Woods, what that allows them to do - the Morris boys are going to be leaving, Greg Eastwood's leaving, Moses Mbye's gone - they will be able to start looking at players $200,000 to $300,000 worth.

"There's no point having Josh Jackson, David Klemmer, Kieran Foran - when he comes back - top quality players surrounded by kids who are essentially reserve players at any other club.

"The big problem for the Bulldogs, and this is going to terrify Bulldogs fans, is they will not have clear space, salary cap wise, until 2021.

"In 2019, they're going to be affected with players getting back-ended deals as well as other players activating what we call ratchet clauses.

"In 2020, they'll also be doing that."

 

Flanagan admitted to being "pretty stubborn" in his quest to recruit the 27-year-old at market value, a risky but ultimately successful bid to adhere to Cronulla's more prudent cap management.

"With the June 30 deadline and the Bulldogs pretty desperate to get some salary- cap relief I was holding the cards," Flanagan said on Wednesday as the Sharks departed for Auckland to play the Warriors on Friday night.

"I was just sitting back waiting and it fell in our hands … I stuck to our guns there and in the end it worked."

The benefit, he indicated, was the knowledge his club would not run into its own cap issues next NRL season, even if prospective retirees Lewis, 34, or Gallen, 36, do go around again.

"That won't make a difference for us," Flanagan said.

"In the back of our mind one or both could retire, one or both could battle on next year.

"We're in a good cap position for this year, next year and years to come."

Indeed, Woods' signing is a long-term investment for the post-Gallen era and Flanagan expected the recently overlooked NSW and Australia front-rower, who he conceded has not been in top form this season, to thrive in a forward pack featuring fellow representatives in Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior.

"No Paul Gallen - whether it's next year or the year after - we need to get ourselves ready for that," he said.

"This heads us in the right direction. It was a bit of strategic planning moving forward and the bonus is we get him this year.

"We've got nine games to go and we get a quality player come into our squad. I've got to get him back to playing Test and Origin football, that's our challenge."

Flanagan said Woods would "most likely" have some involvement against the Warriors, probably off the bench, but had not decided for sure.

- with AAP