Waugh must head overseas
Russell Barwick, ESPN Sportscenter Australia
March 1, 2009
Waugh rallies his troops ahead of their latest Super 14 success © Getty Images
"When the Waugh is over got to get away"
For those who are not familiar with Australian rock band Cold Chisel, the above is a line from one of the great songs from their repertoire. Unfortunately those lyrics now apply to Phil Waugh who racked up 100 games for the Waratahs over the weekend.
Waugh became only the third player to achieve the milestone, and the players responded the way they should've for such an inspiring captain, winning and winning well. The two players to have beaten him to the century mark - Chris Whitaker and David Lyons - are now playing overseas, not because they wanted to but because they were in effect forced out of the domestic competition. Waugh is going to become the third player to fall into that category.
His contract is up at the end of the year and at every press conference this past week, the question of his future has been asked and the answer has been the same. He would love to stay at the Waratahs but that decision is not up to him. In fact it's not even up to New South Wales, the whole thing is decided by Robbie Deans.
The Wallabies' coach has the final say on whether or not the Australian Rugby Union top up Waugh's NSW contract which will enable him to stay. The maximum NSW can offer any player is about A$120,000 plus match payments and a few other bits and bobs.
The ARU top it up if Robbie says I want him, if he doesn't then it's sayonara, au revoir or arrivederci depending on which place you head. (Ireland and England are also chances but writing 'bye bye' isn't as flash as Japanese or French is it?)
So the big question - is Robbie Deans going to say yes or no to Phil Waugh? The answer is unfortunately NO, NO, NO, NO, and NO.
For whatever reason Robbie Deans doesn't like or rate Phil Waugh. On the Wallabies' recent trip to Europe, Waugh was a glorified tourist especially during the French leg. He started against Italy and Wales and played 15 minutes against New Zealand in the Hong Kong match. And as much I hate to say it, Phil Waugh has to go overseas and do it sooner rather than later.
He is 29 years old and is still playing great rugby, as was evident on Friday night. If he was 30 or 31 he would not be as attractive to an overseas club but here's the killer. Most of the overseas clubs have already completed their list for the upcoming season and if Waugh doesn't get a contract soon he might be left out in the cold.
Which makes you ask why Robbie Deans is delaying telling him he isn't wanted? I mean 10 years loyal service, hey any chance of a heads up so I can get my stuff sorted?
Enter stage left Rocky Elsom and there's your answer.
Word has been filtering around for a few weeks that Rocky was keen to come back home after his short stint overseas and until that was locked away Waugh was a handy back up. Hence my statement that Waugh has got to get away.
Going first is a lot better than going after everybody has said they don't want you, and whilst I can't understand why, the fact is Deans doesn't want him and the sooner Phil signs a contract elsewhere the better off he will be.
Waugh deserves as much as anyone the chance to go overseas and if it means leaving NSW than so be it and the ARU should show a bit of gumption and tell him now rather than stuffing him around until it's too late.
Like the song says - "Can't help feeling nothing more than sadness, Only choice to face it the best I can".
And while I'm at it, inviting Sonny Bill Williams back to play for a Barbarians side against the Wallabies is a cheap publicity stunt by a desperate ARU. Sonny Bill Williams left this country in disgrace after walking out on a contract albeit a rugby league one, and for the ARU to allow him the chance to play against Australia even in a different code stinks.
It's not like he's earned to represent the Barbarians with his form at Toulon. Sometimes the codes as much as they dislike or compete against each other have to show some respect.
Russell Barwick is a presenter for ESPN Sportscenter in Australia