South Sydney have already opened discussions with the NRL about their salary cap predicament in the post-Sam Burgess era, and could be armed with close to $4 million to spend over the next four years.
NRL.com understands the Rabbitohs had reached out to the governing body in the days leading up to Burgess’s retirement announcement on Wednesday to begin discussions about the implications on the club’s salary cap.
If South Sydney are granted a full exemption for Burgess’s retirement, they will become a huge player in the market place as they begin their search for a replacement.
Ryan Matterson is the only high-profile forward currently given permission to negotiate with clubs for next season, but there are no shortage of options of players available in 2021 when they hit the open market on November 1.
The list of forwards includes St George Illawarra’s Tyson Frizell, Brisbane’s David Fifita, Canterbury captain Josh Jackson, Gold Coast’s Jai Arrow and Manly’s Jake Trbojevic.
It is believed Souths are unlikely to consider chasing Kiwi dual international Sonny Bill Williams, who is attracting offers from multiple organisations around the globe.
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Other left-field options are trying to get former Rabbitohs premiership-winning forward Ben Te'o after his stint in English rugby, as well as Canberra’s John Bateman.
Bateman admitted prior to this year’s grand final that he was hoping for an upgrade in his deal with the Raiders, however that may not be possible in 2020 given Canberra’s salary cap limitations.
Bateman is with Bennett in Great Britain camp, and yet to meet with the Raiders about his contract situation.
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The Rabbitohs could also decide to spend the money bolstering their backline, with the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Jack Wighton, Tom Trbojevic, Ryan Papenhuyzen, AJ Brimson and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak all free agents for the 2021 season come Friday.
In order for Burgess to be medically retired by the NRL and have his estimated $1 million-a-season contract declared exempt from the salary cap, the NRL must consider three factors.
- The Player, at the time of termination, was diagnosed as medically unfit to currently continue to train and play elite level contact sport and was medically unable to ever return to play elite level contact sport due to the current level of disability or the significant risk of further disabling injury as a result of playing elite level contract sport.
- The Player, had no similar injury or medical condition to that area of the body that either has or could reasonably be predicted medically to lead to a degenerative condition of that area of the body prior to signing his last NRL contract or if the players contract was signed more than 24 months previous within the last 24 months unless an unrelated single event has resulted in rapid deterioration of this condition.
- A single event that caused the injury could be identified.
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While Burgess has had chronic shoulder problems, it’s understood South Sydney have medical evidence to argue the condition the 30-year-old now finds himself in is a result of an infection he suffered after surgery earlier in the year.
The infection, which in July led to Burgess being hospitalised on an IV drip, is believed to have eroded the shoulder to the point of no return.
The NRL will look at all the relevant documentation and medical advice, including independent specialist advice, before coming to a decision.
"There will obviously be questions about what Sam’s retirement means for South Sydney’s 2020 salary cap and beyond," NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.
"There are rules surrounding these matters and it’s important we take our time to work through the facts with South Sydney in a considered and methodical manner."