Since the news of Catalans’ interest in Sam Tomkins was revealed by the Wigan Observer last week, it has been the hottest topic in rugby league. Here is what we know so far...
Has Sam Tomkins signed for Catalans?
It depends on who you believe. Sam himself says not, the coaches of both clubs have sidestepped the issue at their press conferences, and there has been no official confirmation. But it is understood a four-year deal has been agreed.
If it is done, why hasn’t it been confirmed?
Maybe Wigan are waiting until they feel the time is right - the club has previous for delaying making announcements. Or maybe there are a few formalities to complete first. Confirmation of the departures of Micky McIlorum and Anthony Gelling, remember, dragged on as the moves were finalised.
Tomkins stayed behind in France last weekend, while the majority of his team-mates returned home on Saturday night (Frenchmen Morgan Escare and Romain Navarrete were allowed to stay to see family, and returned on Monday evening).
Just back-up – ‘Sam himself says not’; has he spoken publicly about it...
No. He was due to face the media at Wigan’s media conference last Friday; standard practice is for journalists to request interviews with players in advance. They had been told Tomkins would be available, only to be told he was not on Friday morning. Tomkins has been silent since but on Monday night, he responded to a comment on his Instagram post by New Zealand rugby league personality The Mad Butcher, who asked if he would be playing in France next year. “I’m not sure yet mate, nothing decided just yet,” Tomkins wrote.
Tomkins was not made available to the media at yesterday’s weekly conference, either.
What have the coaches said?
Shaun Wane said: “He’s my player until I’m told otherwise.”
Catalans coach Steve McNamara was asked about Tomkins after the game on Saturday.
“I’m not going to speak about any player that isn’t our player, Sam is a Wigan player,” is all he would say.
Hardly a denial, then. Let’s presume he is going – why would Wigan let him go?
Let him? He’s out of contract at the end of this year, he’s free to do as he pleases. It is thought Wigan offered him a new deal before he agreed to the Catalans move.
Google says he returned to Wigan on a four-year deal...
Which was a mistake in the original press release. He signed a three-year deal, but there is an option for an extra season in the club’s favour. If they exercised it, Tomkins would have to stay for 2019.
Then why don’t they keep him!?
A question to ask both parties once this episode is confirmed. Maybe, if he wants to go, Wigan think it is best to use the money elsewhere. Each club is allowed two marquee players, in which a portion of their lucrative deals don’t count on the salary cap. George Williams is one, Tomkins the other.
Ah... so a new signing will take the marquee spot?
Maybe – but clubs don’t have to use their marque allowance. Some have suggested John Bateman could be handed the extra money to try and keep him longer.
Who else is out of contract this year?
Ryan Sutton, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa and Romain Navarrete of the frontline players. It is unclear whether Sean O’Loughlin and Thomas Leuluai, who have agreed coaching roles at the club when they retire, will play on or not.
Bateman, by the way, isn’t out of contract, but he has a clause which allows him to move to the NRL if a set, undisclosed transfer is paid.
Any signings on the cards?
Zak Hardaker is thought to have agreed a deal, the uncertainty is we don’t know when it will begin – for 2019 or 2020 – as UKAD has not ruled on his violation. He has been suspended since a failed test for cocaine while at Casteford.
So Hardaker will replace Tomkins at No.1 then?
Maybe not. Wigan already have another high-calibre full-back in Escare, and he is under contract for two years after this. Hardaker could be an option to play centre – Gildart, like prop Sutton, has already admitted he may try his hand in the NRL.
Back to Tomkins: Wigan are regularly challenging for trophies, Catalans battled against relegation last year. Why would he go?
Maybe money; he turns 30 next year and this will probably be his last contract. Maybe the length of the contract was longer than Wigan’s offer. Maybe he wants a lifestyle change for his young family – the south of France is a nice part of the world. Questions to ask when the parties confirm the move.
How have fans responded?
Mixed. Many are disappointed – he is getting back to great form after two injury-hit years – and some have questioned what impact this will have on his Wigan legacy. Others have been more understanding.
But what if Catalans are relegated?
And that is arguably the most interesting question of them all.
We saw when Hull KR and Leigh were relegated, existing contracts were voided. But these are interesting times for the sport. Remember, the Super League clubs have jointly taken control of the competition and behind the scenes, are talking about the structure and how money is distributed.
Catalans were 80 minutes away from the drop last year and are bottom of the table now. Have they been assured of their place in the top-flight next season? Probably not, but the silence from club bosses and the RFL about the future make-up of the competition has been deafening.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington recently insisted that as far as he is concerned, nothing will change, for now – meaning Catalans could be relegated this year.
Wigan next face the Dragons in the final match of the season before the Super-8s split at the end of July, meaning Tomkins will know by then whether the French outfit will be facing another fight for top-flight survival or not.
Whether Tomkins’ move to Catalans is confirmed by then, remains to be seen!