‘It will be looked at’: Roosters seek salary-cap relief for Crichton

The Roosters have sought salary-cap relief from the NRL for sidelined back-rower Angus Crichton as he continues treatment for mental health issues.

Crichton has been granted indefinite leave after his family released a statement last Thursday revealing he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He is expected to enter a treatment facility in coming days.

Sources with knowledge of the situation have told the Herald he won’t be available for training for at least 10 weeks before an assessment is made on any return to the playing field.

A Kangaroos and NSW representative, Crichton is reportedly on $750,000 a season this year and next.

The Roosters declined to comment, but it is understood chief executive Joe Kelly discussed the idea late last week with NRL head of integrity Jason King.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said salary-cap auditor Matt Faulkner would determine any decision on salary-cap relief.

The Roosters have asked for salary-cap relief for Angus Crichton.Credit:Getty Images

“That’s a challenging question,” Abdo told the Herald. “It’s an injury like any other injury and, in the past, we haven’t given salary-cap relief. But, if there’s an appropriate approach to it, and it’s discharged in terms of a suitable specialist, it can be looked at.

“The salary-cap auditor is empowered to look at certain situations within certain parameters. With appropriate, independent advice, it will be looked at.”

Salary-cap relief is usually granted for players injured in representative matches, have suffered career-ending injuries or stood down by the no-fault stand-down policy.

The Dragons received cap relief in 2019 for back-rower Jack de Belin, who was sidelined for three years as he fought sexual assault charges in the courts.

In 2017, the salary-cap rules were changed when Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson suffered a serious knee injury while playing for England.

Outside those parameters, though, the NRL is loath to provide cap relief because of the murky precedent it can set.

The Roosters asked for salary-cap relief in early 2021 for former captain Boyd Cordner after he was sidelined because of a series of concussions. Their request was denied and Cordner was medically retired in June that year.

“As far as season-ending or career-ending issues, each of those are looked at on their merits,” Abdo said. “If it’s material, in terms of length, there’s an opportunity to look at it. But it gets carefully assessed.”

The issue is tricky for the NRL.

Physical injuries are different to concussion and mental health issues insofar that specialists and doctors can predict recovery time almost to the week.

With greater emphasis from the NRL on protecting players from concussion, and with a “State of Mind” initiative that focuses on mental health, players who don’t show outward symptoms can feel pressure to play.

Knowing they won’t be an impost on the club’s cap would encourage players to come forward with mental health issues. The NRL, however, is conscious about clubs exploiting the rule.

Crichton’s mental health has been the source of great speculation recently before his father, Charlie, released a statement to Channel Nine, publisher of this masthead.

“I can confirm today that Angus is under appropriate professional support and treatment for medically diagnosed bipolar disorder, which he has been dealing with for some time,” Charlie Crichton said on Thursday night.

“He is fully supported by his family, his management and the Sydney Roosters club as he works towards recovery.

Meanwhile, the Roosters are likely to start the season without any certainty around teenage sensation Joseph Suaali’i, who has an option his way under his current deal for 2024.

Suaali’i has attracted tentative interest from Rugby Australia as it builds for the 2027 World Cup but the Roosters remain confident of extending his deal long-term.

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