Considering the large amount of time it took for pen to meet paper with Collingwood, it’s exceptionally hard not to be sceptical of Travis Cloke’s new five-year deal with Channel Nine.
Before examining the TV deal, it’s important to remember that Cloke held Collingwood to ransom over his playing contract in 2012, dragging out discussions with his manager Ralph Carr, his father David Cloke and the club. Numbers in excess of $1 million a season were bandied about, as was a potential move to the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Talks were stretched out for almost a year. Eventually, Cloke’s camp suspended all discussions about the contract, which of course sent discussions into overdrive. Collingwood eventually lost out to Sydney in the Preliminary Final and Cloke signed a $4 million deal over five years shortly after.
At the time, Carr was quoted as saying “He conceded a lot of money to stay. I think it is a fair deal for all parties.” This led people around the league to believe that clubs like Fremantle and GWS had offered Cloke huge contracts, but not five-year deals as Cloke’s camp had maintained was their desire all along.
In the end, Cloke got the big-money, long-term contract he’d been after for a long time. His future at Collingwood is seemingly assured and after Chris Dawes was shipped to Melbourne, Cloke’s status as Collingwood’s number one forward was cemented.
Of course, it’s common knowledge that Collingwood president Eddie McGuire is a public face of Channel Nine. He has been involved with the television network for decades hosting various game shows. He was the CEO of the organisation until 2007.
It may be overthinking the situation but you have to wonder if Eddie McGuire put Travis Cloke on a big money deal with Channel Nine to supplement his already bulging bank account, and whether the money offered in the Collingwood contract was not.
David Cloke has already returned fire at these claims, stating that the deal “Has nothing to do with Eddie McGuire” and “It’s totally separate.” He claims the AFL has been notified of the deal and has “No problems” with it.
The AFL is cracking down on third-party deals such as Cloke’s. Carlton’s Chris Judd has one with major sponsor Visy, the company of which late Carlton chairman Richard Pratt was CEO of. The Blues were eventually told to list the deal in the salary cap.
Geelong has pushed a deal between Joel Selwood and Geelong president Frank Costa’s property group into its injury payments whilst ex-Adelaide player Kurt Tippett was a part of a now-notorious Balfours Bakery advertisement, for which he was paid by the company, again outside of the salary cap.
The AFL has been very strict on this recently. No clubs can initiate third-party deals with players in order to supplement their wages outside of the salary cap.
The TV deal is for five years. Cloke will appear on The Footy Show, which McGuire was a host of until 2007, and the Channel Nine news bulletin at 6pm. Interestingly, the length of the deal is longer than most Channel Nine employees’ contracts, including marquee names James Brayshaw and Garry Lyon.
Despite David Cloke’s comments, it is very hard to believe that Travis Cloke has signed a deal with a company which his current football club’s president has extremely close ties to without that president having any knowledge of the deal. Although the deal has supposedly been passed by the AFL, one has to question what the real story is.