The Sam Tomkins saga perhaps showcases, the side of the Marquee Signing ruling that no one foresaw. What happens, if the marquee player who have signed doesn’t perform at a regular marquee standard or doesn’t play on a regular basis?
The Curse of the Marquee Rule
Sam Tomkins has been exceptional this year for Wigan, very good last year and good in 2016. The issue with the 2016 and 2017 season for Tomkins was that he missed large parts of those seasons through injury.
In 2018, Tomkins looks (fingers crossed) to have put his injuries behind him and Wigan do have the option to extend his contract for 2019 should they wish.
The Marquee Ruling is still in its infancy and the long-term effects are perhaps being explored by the Wigan hierarchy at the moment. What does value for money look like, from a business point of view from a marquee signing?
Put yourself in Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski’s shoes, does a 3-year contract which is 2 1/3 years through look value for money with:
43 games played out of 75 possible games, 14 tries scored, 27 try assists – virtually contributing a try a game via an assist or scoring one himself. But, perhaps the game ratio of 57% appearances is the underlying issue for the club when assessing the marquee status of a player when you are paying them X more than the rest of the squad. Would you pay you to extend your top earner’s contract with a 57% attendance rate? Well, it depends I guess on many factors.
Take 2018 in isolation and Sam Tomkins is back at his brilliant best. He isn’t the free running, flowing, try scoring fullback he was in 2010 – 2013, he is now a mature playmaker that is one of the best in the business. His influence on the 2018 Wigan side was perhaps felt the most in his absence at St Helens, George Williams may be the main assist generator for the Warriors but Tomkins is the chief organiser and schemer.
Perhaps, like a good business, Wigan are making the business decision on extending Sam Tomkins contract into its fourth year when they know that the injuries are behind him. But, will Tomkins still be available at that point?
The Tomkins Outlook
If you look at it from Sam Tomkins point of view and put yourself in his shoes. Wigan as far as we know, have not exercised the option for his fourth season as a Marquee Player, so naturally, if you’re employment isn’t guaranteed you start looking at your options. Perhaps the option open to Tomkins is that of extending his marquee status and therefore a final large salary contract in the sunny climes of the South of France. With a young family and the speculated tax benefits that French sides are available to offer sports stars, it’s easy to understand the temptation of the Dragons to Tomkins.
Without the lure of a new contract from Wigan at the rate that he is now perhaps justifying, it’s feasible to see why the Catalans Dragons are confident of landing Sam Tomkins for the 2019 season.
Too Soon To Move
Is Catalans the right move for Tomkins though, putting aside whatever the financial implications may be. Well, will Catalans be in Super League in 2019 – with the uncertainty around the 2019 format, you would probably make a strong case that a club like the Dragons are essential to the new global vision for Super League.
However, for me, the Dragons have become a rugby league equivalent to the MLS or the LA Galaxy in particular – in harsh terms, a pension club – a place to earn that one last big paycheque. Similar to how the Wolfpack in Toronto are perhaps the Championship version of this now with their signings in recent years. Sam Tomkins is too good a player to be allowed to make that decision at the moment and Wigan need to realise that.
I believe Sam Tomkins has a decision to make, stay at Wigan and ensure you are remembered as a Wigan legend and no doubt, hall of famer. Or, move away from the club too early and risk your status amongst the Wigan public and potentially the prospects of international honours and more silverware. To bring back the LA Galaxy analogy – David Beckham left Europe too soon and ended up coming back on loan to AC Milan and PSG because he still have a lot more to offer at a higher level, similarly, that is the same for Tomkins.
A Crossroads for the Club
Tomkins has so much more to offer Wigan and Wigan have so much more to offer to Tomkins. Allowing Tomkins to leave would be one of the strangest decisions Wigan will have made under the tenure of Ian Lenagan, particularly when they have the option to the fourth-year extension.
Like most things with the Wigan club, when they are explained, they do make sense and at the moment, all we have is sheer speculation. But, with Ryan Sutton, John Bateman*, Oliver Gildart, Thomas Leuluai and Sean O’Loughlin out of contract at the end of 2018, can Wigan allow such an overhaul in personnel or is it a case of funds are needed to secure the majority rather than the few.
Whatever the case, the amount of speculation of the aforementioned players will only continue until decisions are announced and perhaps those decisions will only be announced once the 2019 structure is known and understood – something the Ian Lenagan is working on…
*clause to move to the NRL, has a Wigan contract for 2019.