Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown – or just rugby league March 21, 2015 - 1:58AM 15 reading now Be the first to comment Malcolm Knox Sports columnist If rugby league were serious about a concussion test, how many clubs would be able to field a team? Daly Cherry-Evans is going to the Gold Coast to get away from off-field instability. Ding! Kieran Foran goes to Parramatta because Anthony Watmough told him it's awesome. Ding-ding! Parramatta will pay Foran one fifth of their salary cap. Ding-ding-ding! Voldemort. Ding-a-ling-a-ling….! Wayne Bennett thinks that elite playmakers being pole-axed behind play is just normal rugby league, and anyone who thinks the laws should protect them is a "drama queen let out of the cage". Please, everyone get back in the cage together, it's safer there. When a game is permanently concussed, it's little wonder that if a player is shown two fingers and he says "Half-past-three and no sugar thanks", he is sent back on the field. To translate Akira Kurosawa into rugby leaguish, in a concussed world only the concussed are seeing things straight. The Sea Eagles have long set the standard for insanity-as-best-practice, as half a century of success proves. Surely the clearest sign that they are falling off their perch is the outbreak of prudence that has overtaken a management culture better known for giving itself uppercuts while taking a swing at that shadow behind the filing cabinet. For the past year, Manly have been steadily signing, on sensible contracts, a solid squad of juniors, up-and-comers, veterans and the kind of discards they tend to turn into gold. They released their overpaid, opinionated deadwood. They refused to value their halves at more than a million dollars each. What on earth is going on in that place? There has to be an investigation. Occam's Razor is the notion that the most likely explanation for anything is the most simple. You would think simplicity would come naturally to rugby league, but that is not to allow for the Concussion Rule, which states that the most byzantine, diabolic rumour will get talked about so exhaustively that it becomes reality. Hence, nobody could have guessed that Cherry-Evans-Foran-Gate might have ended with both players going to … whoever offered the most money. Of course nobody wants to reveal Foran's dirty little secret because, one, he's a jolly good fellow and two, it would reduce six months' worth of conspiracy theories to confetti. Shock horror, Foran is going to Parramatta for the same reason league players have switched clubs since Dally Messenger joined Eastern Suburbs: because his agent has been clever enough to find a club that will spend one-fifth of its $6.5 million cap on his client. Not only that, but if reports are correct next year Parramatta will be spending close to 40 per cent of their cap on three ex-Manly players, Foran, Watmough and Will Hopoate. Even if Darcy Lussick and David "The Prince of Left-Handers" Gower went from Brookvale to the Eels on the minimum wage (and overpriced at half the cost), it makes you wonder how much the non-ex-Manly Eels are getting, and how much kava Semi Radradra will eventually be prepared to play for. It was only ever about the money, or its synonym, "looking after my family". That's why Manly are not holding it against their playmakers, who have been taken out as cleanly as if by Beau Scott. For Foran to have gone to Parramatta because he was tired of board politics would mean he is the one needing a concussion test. For him to have gone to Parramatta on Watmough's counsel would mean he needs an IQ test. For him to have gone to Parramatta to improve his football under better coaching only raises the question, who will be Parramatta's coaches from 2016 to 2019? For him to have gone for $1.2 million a year – well, how could he not? Success-starved clubs put their eggs into one basket. Gold Coast and the NRL have done the same with Cherry-Evans. Building a team around star purchases has worked for the Rabbitohs, the Roosters and the Bulldogs. Those three clubs have signed Origin or international players Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings, James Maloney, James Graham, Tony Williams and Brett Morris: most of the traffic in elite talent since 2012 has been sucked in by those three clubs. The result is two premierships, four grand final appearances and three minor premierships, and probably more to come. Spending a million dollars a year on one player seems mad, but, as Edgar Allan Poe said, "I do not suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it." For Parramatta, the awkward question arises of what they do when Jarryd Hayne comes back? I know that to doubt Hayne's NFL fairytale is to risk being handled as roughly as Thomas in the Gospel According To John. But a rookie NFL contract in March is not like other sporting contracts. As John Feinstein put it in Next Man Up, his book about the Baltimore Ravens (the football franchise named after a story by Poe), "There are no guaranteed contracts in the NFL … From the moment that [signing bonus] is cashed, contracts go in one direction: the team's." A player who signs a contract is committed to the team. On the other hand, the team is not committed to the player. "That's one reason why there is no job in professional team sports as insecure as that of an NFL player." And this is NFL players Feinstein is talking about, not 27-year-old leaguies. For Hayne to survive the San Francisco 49ers' 53-man cut this October as a running back would be a miracle, a testament to his skill and determination and to the 49ers' appetite for risk. Everyone is wishing Hayne good luck, principally because he's going to need it. The Eels have more reasons than most to hope he succeeds. If he doesn't get too badly hurt by 160-kilo defensive linemen jumping up and down on him, it's quite possible he will be back in the NRL, maybe even next year, and if we are to believe in his apparent free pass back to Parramatta, what will that do to their salary cap? Does Foran's contract have a Hayne clause? Will Watmough take a pay cut, because after all that's what a great bloke does for his mates? Will every contract be back-ended into the never-never? Will Will go back to Manly? The whole scheme sounds crazy, unworkable, definitely in need of an investigation, until you remember it's just rugby league.