Nightingale sets end date on storied career
Off-contract St George Illawarra Dragons winger Jason Nightingale says he has – at most – two more seasons in the NRL past his current deal.
The 30-year-old winger is desperate to play at least one more season after the current one at the Red V, while a potential two-year extension would make him 33 by the time he finally hangs up the boots.
The Renown United junior has been in red and white since his junior days and whatever happens with his next deal will finish up as a rare one-club man.
He already has 221 NRL games at St George Illawarra and a lofty 31 Test for the Kiwis.
"I'd love to stay at the Dragons and play one more year minimum, two years max, I think that's the plan for myself and my future," Nightingale said at the launch of the 2017 Charity Shield at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
"There's no stress around [the contract] – I feel like I've got to the point in my career where I don't sit there going 'what is my percentage of the salary cap'."
A new collective bargaining agreement between the Rugby League Players Association and the NRL will also not be front of mind for Nightingale.
Those key negotiations will have a major impact on contracts for young or long-term players heading into the new rights deal and increased cap with agents already factoring in percentage increases to deals effective from 2018 onwards. But it's something that isn't weighing on Nightingale's mind.
"CBA negotiations or anything like that aren't coming in to factor with myself and I've got a sense of satisfaction with my last contract of being able to spend as many years as I have at this club and would love that to go for another one or two seasons. After that, retire and do whatever," he added.
Nightingale is one of a host of big-name players off contract at the end of 2017 – a situation replicated across many NRL clubs presently – and for the Dragons, securing the signings of the likes of Gareth Widdop, Josh Dugan, Jack De Belin and Euan Aitken may demand more urgency.
But after getting weighed down with player contract distractions last season, coach Paul McGregor is adamant those conversations will be handled by the club's pathways director Ian Millward in 2017.
"A lot of lessons have been learned [from last year] and I've distanced myself right away from retention and recruitment," McGregor said.
"My main focus and all my energy is going into the 2017 squad.
"I'm looking forward to putting all my energy into the guys right now and let Ian Millward manage what needs to happen in the future for the club."