Wests Tigers duo Josh Reynolds and Russell Packer have received some sympathy for their mid-match walkout on Saturday night, but not everyone is willing to forgive them.
Two of the club’s highest-paid players — on a combined salary of $1.6 million this year — left Lottoland at halftime when the Tigers trailed Manly 20-12, before staging a remarkable comeback at the death to seal a 34-32 win by scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes.
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Reynolds and Packer are out of favour with coach Michael Maguire and have struggled for game time this season. Left out of the side against the Sea Eagles, they bailed after 40 minutes.
Technically they didn’t break any rules, because non-playing squad members are not required to attend away games, but most in rugby league thought it was a poor look.
However, Daily Telegraph reporter Paul Crawley believes the Tigers need to accept much of the blame for the situation because of how they’ve treated Reynolds and Packer by regularly snubbing them from first grade.
Crawley accused the club of leaking details about the stars’ pay packets and their Saturday night escape job because they’re trying to get rid of them to ease salary cap pressures next year.
Signed on big-money deals by former coach Ivan Cleary, it’s clear Reynolds and Packer don’t feature in Maguire’s future plans.
“What strikes me is it completely highlights the disconnect between the administration of that club and the playing group,” Crawley said on NRL 360.
“I feel so sorry for those two players.
“They were brought to the club, they were signed on huge contracts by (former coach) Ivan Cleary, and the club went into those deals with eyes wide open.
“You’d be walking around kicking stones and they’ve been doing that now for what, 18 months?
“From a player welfare perspective, it’s shocking treatment of these players. If the Tigers want to get rid of them, get rid of them by going to another club and working out a deal.
“This is going to go on next year. Both players are contracted for next year, if they don’t sort it out now they’ll be whingeing about it at the end of next year, too.”
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Josh Reynolds’ career is in limbo.Source:Getty Images
Russell Packer has struggled for game time this year.Source:Getty Images
Crawley could understand Tigers fans’ frustration at reading about the players leaving at halftime, but added: “It’s a different situation when that’s your place of employment and you’ve been treated horribly.”
With no reserve grade competition because of COVID-19, Reynolds and Packer can’t play themselves back into form to push for a first grade spot — which would only add to their frustration.
Canberra legend Laurie Daley, who has coached Reynolds at Origin level for NSW, was bemused by the whole affair.
“I find it difficult to see why you’d leave at halftime,” he said on the Big Sports Breakfast. “Why would you go, turn up at Manly, then just take off at halftime?
Daily Telegraph rugby league writer Dean Ritchie said the walkout was a “poor look” and argued Reynolds and Packer should have known better.
“I have the old-school mentality of one-in, all-in and you should be there, particularly senior players who the young guys would look up to,” Ritchie told the Big Sports Breakfast.
“Just their mere presence in the dressing room could have given the young guys a bit of a lift.
“You shouldn’t need a rule in place to make you go and support your own team. I would have thought that would be second nature.”
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