Broncos players’ incredible Oates sacrifice
A GROUP of senior Broncos players were so keen for the club to re-sign winger Corey Oates they offered to take $10,000 pay cuts.
The plan was knocked back by the NRL as it was against salary cap rules, but the move reveals a strong spirit in the club despite the speculation about coach Wayne Bennett's future.
Though Oates has not publicly declared his future, it is understood he has all but agreed to stay at the Broncos on a multi-year contract worth about $500,000 a season.
Oates fielded a host of superior financial offers from rival clubs and there was several times in the negotiation process he appeared more chance of leaving the club than staying with the Broncos constrained by severe salary cap pressure.
Several teammates were concerned he could be lost to the club and offered to dig into their own pockets to help Oates stay and the Broncos remain under the cap.
While the Broncos had a disappointing season after being eliminated in the second week of the play-offs, the players feel they are not far away from the premiership that has remained tantalisingly out of reach since the club's last title in 2006.
It is not unprecedented for a group of players to take a collective pay cut if they can see the greater glory of a premiership approaching.
The Brisbane Lions team who won three successive premierships last decade could have pocketed more money elsewhere but many took unders to stay at the club.
Coach Leigh Matthews once agreed to take a pay cut to be part of this theme and pointed out that many years down the track the players would be thankful they sacrificed money if it meant winning a title.
Broncos coach Bennett has told the players he will see out the last year of his contract with the Broncos next season but the acid test of his word may come in the next two weeks.
Penrith have been tipped to lure Wests coach Ivan Cleary back to the foot of the mountains, which would mean the Tigers could make a play for Bennett for next season.
Bennett is believed to be the Tigers' priority choice ahead of current New Zealand coach Michael Maguire.
The coaching brew is also spiced up by a Broncos play for Souths coach Anthony Seibold to follow Bennett at Red Hill.
If Seibold is lured north for the 2020 season Souths may ask him to leave immediately which could bring Bennett into play for a direct swap.
The Rabbitohs could be a more appealing destination for Bennett than the Tigers because they appear closer to a premiership.