EXCLUSIVE: Phil Gould reveals how Knights let unlikely Dally M leader go to the Dogs on 'genius' $40k deal!
Wide World of Sports
Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould has revealed how the club came to sign shock Dally M leader Jacob Kiraz on a paltry $40,000 deal, declaring that the move has made him "look a genius".
Kiraz has enjoyed an outstanding start to the season, playing a starring role for the 2-1 Bulldogs through the first three rounds. He sits atop the Dally M leaderboard with 11 points, two ahead of Payne Haas and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.
The 21-year-old returned to the club that knocked him back twice as a junior on a $1000-per-year train-and-trial deal, before making his debut last season and has not looked back since.
Gould described Kiraz as a "great kid", adding that he was "wholehearted" and revealed his stunned reaction to seeing the powerful winger in action for the first time on the training track.
"I'd never seen him play, so I did some homework on him," he told Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles With Gus podcast.
"He came down to us on $40,000.
"I remember walking into training around Christmas time ... I'm sitting there in the heat and this big gangly thing just goes loping past and I said, 'Who the hell is that?', and they said, 'That's that boy from Newcastle, Kiraz'. I said, 'That's him?' He said, 'Yeah'. I said, 'Wow, he's going to make me look a genius'.
"Right from the time he started to play, he was a ball-runner and you couldn't contain him. He had big long gangly features and he was a strong runner.
"We ran into COVID and injury problems early last year, we were playing the Broncos and we had to get a couple of players qualified and he and Billy Tsikrikas made their debut. They weren't anywhere near the top 30 and (Kiraz) was the best player on the field.
"I immediately renewed his contract and signed him up and I'm going to have to renew it and sign him up again."
Gould said Kiraz had ended up back at Belmore after his manager approached him following stints at the Cowboys and Knights that were ruined by COVID-19.
"He'd actually signed a contract to go to the Cowboys when he was younger and got identified by a Cowboy talent scout," he said.
"He went up there but COVID hit and there was no lower grade or development football, so he came back home. That talent scout then moved from the Cowboys to the Newcastle Knights ... so he went to the Newcastle Knights. His deal was staggered from an incentive deal, to a contract, to maybe a lower-tier top 30, but again COVID hit the following year.
"So he was training but not playing and he'd gone two years without football and because of his contract he'd suddenly found his way into the top 30.
"Well the first grade coach is looking for forwards and he's got this kid Kiraz he hasn't seen play for two years, he's never seen him play. The talent scout said, 'Oh I think he's a good player', but the coach just said, 'Oh well, we need forwards, if we need to move someone, move him'."
The Knights' loss has wound up being Gould and the Bulldogs' major gain, with Kiraz scoring two tries in three appearances so far to go along with his six tries last season.
The Bulldogs will hope Kiraz's match-winning exploits travel across the Tasman when the team faces the red-hot Warriors in New Zealand in round four.