SS NSW Tah-tanic heading for an iceberg?

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    I was flabbergasted to see this The Sydney Morning Herald headline a few days ago: “Waratahs show Mowen the exit door to clear the way for Elsom.”

    As the article says, Mowen has been playing for the Tahs for over three years now, and has been playing so well the media had been speculating for awhile that (with all the injuries) he might get a gig in a gold jersey. Further, he has been a good part of the Tahs’ forward pack, who are well regarded in the Super comp as an integral art of why the Tahs are so competitive.

    Tell that to Tahs management, who apparently can’t fit him in (although the SMH on Monday said some officials were surprised Mowen might go – so much for the new Tahs company being different to the old NSWRU incarnation). The speculation that it is to allow Elsom into the team appears to miss two points.

    Firstly, speculation that a personality clash between Rocky and Phil Waugh means Rocky won’t come to the Tahs if Waugh is still there.

    So why punt a great talent if it can’t even be guaranteed you’re getting Elsom (given Waugh still hasn’t indicated if he will play again next year)? Secondly, Elsom isn’t exactly guaranteed to play every game.

    He clearly has had injury problems ever since he came back from Europe, and has barely gotten on the field this year for the Brumbies, after a problematic year last year. So surely Mowen is likely to be needed to fill in for Elsom if he breaks down for the Tahs next year?

    Perhaps the salary cap mooted by the ARU will also play into this? But then surely there’s plenty of readies now that Kurtley Beale has headed to the Rebels for the “business and networking” opportunities (not the cash).

    This came on top of seeing that Sosene Anesi is going after the maximum two years allowed for a marquee player (which he was from memory), but perhaps worse, Sitaleki Timani and Pat O’Connor are also going.

    Timani was also being talked about as being on the verge of making the Wallabies, although again I think this is more media speculation than reality. But this means two players talked about as potential Wallabies are being let go (or got better offers, but who’d know from the dearth of media coverage).

    I have also read that Josh Holmes is off contract at the end of this year, which is strange given Luke Burgess is heading to France. Surely the Tahs need to lock in Holmes and McKibbin with him going. Apparently not, instead we get speculation (apparently driven by the relevant agents) that the Tahs were looking at Andy Ellis.

    So here we are with a number of good players leaving the Tahs, and questions about how the team is going to be placed next year.

    Chris Hickey is coming to the end of his three-year contract, and by all accounts is ready to go (although he is giving strange noises not saying he will definitely go).

    Talk is Michael Foley will replace him, but no one will say that is the case. Instead, it is likely the Tahs (new management and all) will wait until the Super season is over before making any decision. Perhaps too late given what seems to be going on with deciding who is in the team next year.

    I haven’t been Hickey’s greatest fan. I don’t regard him as a bad coach, but also can’t say he has been a particularly great coach. I have always felt he hasn’t gotten the best out of this team.

    The new coach, whoever they are, will need to mould the team to suit their style and vision for the Tahs. However, at the rate we are going a certain amount of moulding will already have been done. The question is by who?

    Who at the Tahs is making these decisions, which will impact on the ability of any new coach in 2012? If that coach doesn’t get the chance to properly affect the roster until this time next year, there’ll be some interesting discussions about meeting any KPIs for season 2012 if I was an applicant.

    Unless Foley really is going to be next year’s coach, and this is all being done with his input. But he has never struck me as a Machiavellian operator likely to be doing so. If he was the coach to be, I’d expect it to have been announced.

    So the good ship Tah-tanic sails on through recruiting seas, no one at the helm, hoping not to strike any icebergs in the near future until the new captain comes to the wheel.

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