The Sydney Roosters have prompted an interesting debate in the NRL world, after reportedly lobbying the league for salary cap dispensation following the news Angus Crichton is set to miss at least 10 weeks as he seeks mental illness treatment. The NRL world was caught off-guard when it was announced the 27-year-old has opted to pursue treatment last week.
Crichton had earlier been allowed to return home from the Roosters' pre-season trip to New Zealand, before it was later revealed by his father Charlie that he was being treated for bipolar disorder and would be out indefinitely. The announcement prompted an outpouring of support from fans on social media.
However in a turn that could prove challenging for the NRL, the Roosters have reportedly raised the prospect of a dispensation with the NRL's head of integrity, Jason King. Crichton is set to be out for at least 10 weeks, at which point he will undergo a welfare assessment.
There is no guarantee Crichton will return for the Roosters this season, but the Roosters' bid to have some of his $750,000 salary written off looms as a potentially interesting test case for the NRL. League boss Andrew Abdo said injuries have typically not been enough for dispensation in the past, with the Roosters having unsuccessfully made a similar bid prior to the retirement of Boyd Cordner.
“It’s an injury like any other injury and, in the past, we haven’t given salary-cap relief,” Abdo said. “But, if there’s an appropriate approach to it, and it’s discharged in terms of a suitable specialist, it can be looked at."
Abdo indicated there was an openness from the NRL given the unique circumstances faced by Crichton and the Roosters. Without ruling one way or another, he declared it was an issue the salary cap auditor would consider.
“As far as season-ending or career-ending issues, each of those are looked at on their merits," he said. “If it’s material, in terms of length, there’s an opportunity to look at it. But it gets carefully assessed.
“The salary-cap auditor is empowered to look at certain situations within certain parameters. With appropriate, independent advice, it will be looked at.”
NRL world rallies behind Angus Crichton after diagnosis
Crichton's diagnosis was first revealed to Channel 9 last week, via a statement provided by Charlie Crichton. In the statement, it was revealed the 27-year-old had been grappling with his mental health for some time.
"Angus is under appropriate professional support and treatment for medically diagnosed bipolar disorder which he has been dealing with for some time," Charlie Crichton said. "He is fully supported by his family, his management and the Sydney Roosters club as he works towards recovery.
"While no timeline has been set for his return to rugby league, we will continue to trust his medical team and know those within the rugby league community will respect his right to privacy."
Roosters teammate James Tedesco said he and the rest of the team were hopeful Crichton could rejoin the team at some point in the future. The pair were Test teammates for Australia at the Rugby League World Cup late last year.
"It's important to. We've just been supporting him. He is going through some things at the moment." Tedesco said. "We can't really go into detail, but we're all supporting him and hopefully he can be back training.
"He is an important part of our team. He was one of the best backrowers in the game last year so we miss him and want him out there playing with us."
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