The Wests Tigers have left the NRL world scratching its collective head after a shock $4 million deal to sign teenage sensations Samuela and Latu Fainu. The brothers are currently contracted to Manly, with the deal seen by some as a win for the Tigers recruitment team, led by former Sea Eagles staffer and current Tigers head of recruitment, Scott Fulton.
The brothers, who performed well for NSW in their Under 19s State of Origin victory last week, have been touted for some time as being potential superstars of the future. However, the eye-watering figure and length of the Tigers contract for largely unproven youngsters, has raised more than a few eyebrows across the NRL community.
'NOT A GOOD LOOK': Brandon Smith under fire over post-match act
Manly forward Samuela, 19, has only played five career first grade games, while his 18-year-old brother Latu - a promising young halfback whose opportunities would have limited behind Daly Cherry-Evans at Manly - is yet to debut in the NRL. Speaking on NRL 360 on Wednesday night, host Braith Anasta admitted he was stunned by the four-year deal from the Tigers for two youngsters who "haven’t proven themselves yet."
“They have signed a four-year deal. Is there any explanation for the four years because I can understand them signing these two kids, they are rising stars (but) they haven’t proven themselves yet," Anasta said. “They just haven’t. There is a lot of kids that play at that level who you think are going to be really good, but you just don’t know.”
Fox League reporter James Hooper described it as a "desperate" move from a club that is stumbling towards a second successive wooden spoon and hasn't played finals footy in more than a decade. “I think desperate clubs do desperate things at times,” Hooper said.
“To me they really needed a couple of significant signatures. But I am worried about two teenagers with four year contracts and collectively between them they have played five NRL games. I have heard it averages at $500,000 per season over four years, so it is essentially $2 million each and a $4 million package deal."
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) July 19, 2023
Scott Fulton helped bring Fainu brothers to Tigers
News Corp league reporter Michael Carayannis revealed the Dolphins and Bulldogs were in the hunt for the Fainu brothers' signatures but Fulton - who knows the pair well from his time at Manly - proved the decisive factor. “When you talk about who has watched and developed them the guy that is in there at the Tigers is Scott Fulton,” Carayannis said.
Carayannis revealed that the brothers would have been on "almost $800,000 combined next year at the Sea Eagles", perhaps explaining why they had to let them go. “So two top 30 spots for next season for guys that haven’t played a lot of first grade. Samuela has played a little bit, but Latu hasn’t played any first grade," he said.
Tigers deal for Fainu brothers 'hard to justify'
Anasta - who is also a player agent - admits he has watched the Fainu brothers several times, both at under-19’s Origin and club level. However, the former premiership winner says he has yet to see anything that would "justify" the fee and length of deal from the Tigers, with Hooper agreeing that it is a "big risk for teenagers".
“Now I watched these two closely because I had heard a lot about them and I heard the movements at Manly and the interest from the Tigers and I followed it closely," Anasta explained. “And I could say they definitely played well, but they didn’t jump out at me that these kids are going to make it and they are superstars.
“And this kind of deal of four years at $500,000 each and $4 million for the two brothers, I find that very hard to justify. I have watched them more than once and I also know that Manly were happy to let them go.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.