Rugby league icon Phil Gould has singled out Gold Coast Titans superstar David Fifita during a stunning swipe at the NRL player market.
The Canterbury Bulldogs' general manager of football and veteran commentator says Fifita's eye-watering contract has been "harmful" to the game and created a “false economy” in the NRL.
Fifita was signed by the Titans from the Broncos on a massive three-year deal worth $3.65 million in 2021 - which was unprecedented money for an edge forward.
The destructive back-rower - who is at times unplayable when in top form - has struggled for consistency since singing the $1.25 million a season deal.
Fifita has been in and out of Gold Coast's starting side, leading to many critics to question the wisdom behind Gold Coast's staggering contract.
Aside from the inevitable criticism around value for money for the Titans, Gould slammed it as being an "irresponsible" move from the Gold Coast that threatens to spark a significant flow-on effect for future signings.
“If you go back in time to when they signed him, I said it was an irresponsible signing,” Gould said on the Six Tackles with Gus Podcast.
“$1.25 million for a 20-year-old back-rower is reckless spending.
“It actually caused problems with the whole player market and the values in the market.
“When you get an outlier purchase like that where someone goes and pays a ridiculous amount of money for a young back-rower, then the other back-rowers, forwards, halves, five-eighths and fullbacks in the competition say, ‘Well if he’s worth that, what am I worth?’ It created a whole false economy."
In fairness, no one can begrudge Fifita for accepting the astronomical deal that was thrown his way, with the age-old adage ringing true that a player's worth is determined by what clubs are willing to pay for them.
Phil Gould says David Fifita deal has caused an imbalance
Gould says while he is reluctant to single out Fifita, there is no doubt in his mind that the Gold Coast deal has created a massive imbalance in the NRL.
“If you go out and you pay $1.2 million on a rookie forward who’s played 30 games because he scores a try every now and then, then what’s James Tedesco worth? What’s Nathan Cleary worth?" Gould added.
“I don’t want to single David out. It’s not his fault he’s on that money. But it was harmful to the game.”
Fifita is off contract with the Titans at the end of the 2023 season, with the Dragons understood to be among a number of teams interested in acquiring his services.
However, Gould suggested that the 22-year-old's next contract would look considerably different, considering his current role with the Titans.
“What you’ve got at the moment is a player on big money, with a big profile and they play him off the bench,” Gould added.
“You can’t have a bench player on that sort of money!”
Gould says there aren't many players in the NRL whose lofty price tags translate into match-winning performances, highlighting the folly of Gold Coast's Fifita deal.
"There are very, very few million-dollar players in this game, who actually contribute to a high percentage win ratio for your team," Gould said.
"You can justify it with other things - marketing, crowds, sponsorship... and you can try say it's helped with this and that, and sometimes it does.
"But if you're failing (on the field) it doesn't make any difference whether you've got a bloke on $1.2 million or not. "
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