Reigning premiers the Roosters now face the tricky task of keeping their star-studded team together. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
'Salary sacrifice' are the two latest buzzwords down Bondi way, as the Roosters aim to guard against the inevitable seagulls that come circling a premiership-winning side.
Since the dawn of NRL time, clubs have often struggled to hold onto all of their stars in the wake of a title triumph, as the rising stocks of key performers stretch salary caps to breaking point and rival outfits anticipate the unavoidable pitfall of success; not all the names on a championship roster will be there within two to three years of lifting the Provan-Summons trophy.
Decision makers at Roosters HQ will have watched the continued fall-out from Manly's decision to not offer a contract to club favourite Glenn Stewart with interest, with rumours of infighting and senior players Brett Stewart, Steve Matai and Anthony Watmough seeking releases the latest indication one of the most successful teams of the past decade is set to be disbanded.
The Tricolours themselves have seven representative stars – including members of their senior leadership group Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Frank-Paul Nuuausala – coming off contract at the end of 2015, while club captain Anthony Minichiello remains undecided on whether he will prolong his career with the Roosters beyond this season.
Recent NSW stars James Maloney, Daniel Tupou, Maroons debutant Aidan Guerra and Kiwi centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall also head the list of premiership winners that will be free to negotiate with rival clubs once the NRL's anti-tampering date of November 1 passes, but veteran utility Mitch Aubusson says the tight bond amongst the team has seen players already accept pay cuts in the club's bid to retain the nucleus of their 2013 grand final side.
"I think guys have already," Aubusson said when asked if players would be willing to take less money than they could earn elsewhere to maintain the Roosters winning culture.
"They have already sacrificed to stay here and I think that they would again if it comes down to it.
"Most of the boys are starting to re-sign and hopefully we can all stick around for a while yet."
In-form prop Sam Moa and vice-captain Jake Friend have both recently signed new deals that will keep the pair at the Roosters until the end of 2016 and 2017 respectively. Aubusson is hopeful his high-profile teammates will join them in committing to the club long term, though he did admit the situation facing the Sea Eagles was one not uncommon in the modern game.
"It's a tough one," says Aubusson.
"Here a lot of the guys have come off or are starting to come off-contract, they're willing to stay which is good for us.
"(Manly's) obviously going through some stuff at the moment but for our club we're certainly looking to keep us all together.
"Most clubs go through it, the peaks and troughs, but I suppose that's what makes our game so good as well, it is hard to have a really good team for a long period of time; it gives other teams a chance to build and be successful."