Langer defends Scorchers over accusations

Perth coach vigorously denies allegations made against franchise regarding contract bundling and player coercion

Cricket Network

3 February 2018, 05:56 PM AEST

Perth Scorchers coach Justin Langer has launched a spirited defence of the franchise's practices and culture in the wake of ongoing rumours regarding the alleged bundling of state and KFC Big Bash contracts and the possible coercion of players.

The Scorchers have been at the centre of speculation through much of the summer regarding the two issues, with some pointing to their consistent success as well as their ability to maintain an outstanding list of talent while losing very few players along the way, despite the restraints of the tournament's salary cap. 

The concept of 'contract bundling' refers to offering a player a greater-than-value state contract in order to sign them on a less-than-value BBL deal, with the salary cap's limitations then largely circumvented.  

Given they are cities with two BBL teams, Sydney and Melbourne are unable to engage in the same alleged practice, thus potentially creating an uneven playing field. 

"A player who does not play four-day cricket can't be almost on a maximum state contract and getting a pittance for their Big Bash contract," Dirk Nannes said on ABC radio during their coverage of the summer's Magellan Ashes. 

"That just shouldn't happen. You shouldn't be able to manipulate your Big Bash list by using your state contracts.

"Of course, Perth is going to have a natural advantage because playing over there has always been hard ... but when there is a little bit else in there and they have the ability to pay a little bit more, not so much pay a bit more but manipulate the system to retain, I think there is an issue that needs to be looked at."

Speaking on ABC Grandstand, Langer bluntly refuted any suggestion of wrongdoing, highlighting instead a winning culture, as well as the departure of a number of high-profile players from the franchise over the years. 

"I nearly vomited when I read that (WA journalist) John Townsend paragraph about us being investigated," the 105-Test veteran said. 

"Give me one example and then we can talk about every single one of these practices of bundling contracts. 

"It's tougher, to be fair, for the states with two teams, but they also have huge populations.

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“So they've got the opportunity to do what we do. We had 21 guys play for us in 10 games this year which is extraordinary, and five or six of them are young Western Australia kids. We didn't have Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff or the Marsh brothers play the whole series for us. 

"We do proudly want our guys to stay but along the way we lose D'Arcy Short and Marcus Harris, and Bradley Hogg and Craig Simmons and Mike Hussey because we can't afford to keep them. 

"That's the truth. We're really fair on our players. All this dialogue I've been hearing this series, I guarantee now we've lost the semi-final, no-one will talk about it again."

On the question of coercion, Langer addressed the specific case of Australia limited-overs quick AJ Tye, who was reportedly set to re-sign with Sydney Thunder in BBL|04 but, according to ESPN, backed out due to suggestions from WA officials that such a move would be putting his state contract in jeopardy. 

Tye has since furthered his career spectacularly from the Scorchers base, taking a maiden ODI five-wicket haul a week ago, while at the same time being picked up for AUD$1.4m by Kings XI Punjab in the IPL auction. 

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"Let's use AJ Tye, he's the one who keeps (being discussed)," Langer said. "The same AJ Tye we took off the scrapheap of club cricket about six years ago, the same guy who went to Sydney Thunder, didn't like it and wanted to come home, who loves Perth and Western Australia, who just got $1.5m in the IPL auction, who just took five wickets because he's improved in our program. 

"If we're doing the wrong thing by that, I'll cut my leg off. It's unbelievable. 

"So D'Arcy Short's left, Marcus Harris has left. Mike Hussey and Brad Hogg, who are two of my best mates, they left. Craig Simmons left. 

"What, so I'm coercing players? Give me a break. 

"If they don't want to stay – every professional has a manager these days, they're all big boys, if they don't want to stay they can go. 

"If they want to stay because they love being here and they love the WACA family, and we win a lot, so why wouldn't they want to stay here?"

Langer then accused those questioning the Scorchers of effectively engaging in tall-poppy syndrome; given the success of the three-time champions, he suggested critics found it easier to cut them down than to attempt to emulate them. 

"The problem is you've got to work really hard to do that (create a positive, winning culture)," he added. 

"But it's easy to point fingers and say 'they must be cheating' or 'JL must be coercing players'. Are you joking? 

"All winter when our coaches are in the cold WACA indoor centre, keeping an eye on our Under 17 and Under 19s kids, no-one's telling us then we're coercing them to stay. 

"Or we're keeping an eye on our whole program, we're watching club cricket all day – that's the hard part of it, to develop this culture. 

"But let's not worry about doing all of that, that's too hard, let's just point our fingers and say they're doing the wrong thing. Give me a break."