Rieko Ioane is a $4,000,000 man
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: How much will it take to keep Rieko Ioane in New Zealand?
The 21-year-old is off contract with the NZRU at the end of the year. His world tour last year showcased his talents to all the clubs in the Northern Hemisphere, driving up his market value with every performance.
At such a young age, the NZRU would like to secure their primary strike weapon for the long-term. A four-year extension would retain Ioane until 2022, whilst an unprecedented five-year deal would include the next Rugby World Cup in 2023.
Negotiations have been ongoing since the start of the year but the pen has not been put to paper. In the past, only proven performers over a longer time frame earn top dollar contracts with the NZRU. With the increased competition from overseas markets, the NZRU is being forced to reward earlier or risk losing – see Charles Piutau.
In exchange for top money, they want longer commitment. NZRU’s head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum told the NZ Herald recently that “if we can agree on healthy long-term deals they will be rewarded well by anyone’s estimations”. Although these long-term deals can be a case of buyer beware.
After the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the height of Julian Savea’s market, the NZRU handed out an estimated $3.2 million to lock him in until 2019 at somewhere around $800k a year. Savea had just turned 25-years-old before that Rugby World Cup, whereas Ioane has just turned 21. The All Blacks historically replace wingers at around 26, so when you look the lifespan of a winger, Savea’s deal seems loaded with far more risk. They couldn’t let him walk after a sublime World Cup showing, but were unable to agree a shorter term to hedge against a potential slump at the backend. That deal now hasn’t panned out for NZRU and shows the risk in playing long.
Should the NZRU retain Rieko Ioane, they will secure his prime years as an athlete. They will be forced to pay a king’s ransom given his play at the international level already. Ironically, this contract would be a lot cheaper for the NZRU if Savea had blocked Ioane’s path into the All Blacks for another year.
“Guys like Rieko and Damian [McKenzie] are exactly the sort of players that will challenge our thinking, and the heat in the international market which is greater than I’ve ever seen it also challenges that,” Lendrum said.
“We have to continue to be flexible and think about how we reward those players at a younger age.
They will likely have to pay over a million dollars a season to keep Rieko Ioane, and over four years this deal should be in excess of NZD$4 million. Even with a three-year deal, it could come close to that. And that’s with a discount. With pounds and euros on offer in the North, is it not conceivable that Ioane would command a similar price tag to Charles Piutau at £1 million per season (NZD $1.9 million)?
The All Blacks captain Kieran Read is thought to be the first player to reach the $1 million per season threshold when he signed a two-year extension last year, Ioane should leapfrog that. The market resets fast, and Ioane is going to benefit hugely from his timing.
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