Mass exodus looms at Waratahs

Date published: March 5 2013

Michael Cheika faces the mammoth task of dealing with 29 of the Waratahs' 35-man roster coming off contract at the end of the season.

The 2013 Super season has barely started and newly-installed Waratahs coach Michael Cheika faces the mammoth task of having to deal with 29 of the side's 35-man roster coming off contract at the end of the season.

With Australian sides having to deal with the complicated contracting process, whereby players first negotiate with the ARU for their national top-up salaries before the provinces discuss their contracting terms, the Waratahs will have to bide their time before retaining the core of their roster.

Cheika reaffirmed the Waratahs good retention structure, and whilst he acknowledged that he has to wait for the ARU to resolve their part first, he remained optimistic that the team's future playing roster would be resolved sooner rather than later.

“I don't know if we'd be announcing stuff too early, we'll just start playing for a while, get some deals done and then announce something when we have a break perhaps, Cheika told Fox Sports.

“Anything we do, we might look to announce during the bye week (April 13).”

Cheika wanted to first determine which players will be a priority to retain, as he may be looking beyond this season in restructuring a new Waratahs side.

But with reports linking Berrick Barnes, as well as Wycliff Palu to moves abroad, there is no doubt Europe and Japan will start to open up their wallets and entice many of the stars before the Waratahs and ARU can conclude negotiations.

With contracting issues also prevalent in 2012, in particular with the Reds and Quade Cooper, there may be an underlying concern that the contracting system in Australia may be broke, and Australian provinces hindered from protecting their interests, and ultimately affecting future sponsorship securities.

Cooper had a prolonged contractual process with the ARU, on the back of some off-field controversies, which left the Reds unsure of whether they would be able to field him this season.

The 'Tahs will be hoping the ARU will not drag its feet this time and conclude their obligations promptly, before allowing the 'Tahs to secure its interests and prevent any significant form of player exodus.