Will Genia’s dramatic U-turn has Queensland more confident they can also retain his Wallabies playmaking partner, Quade Cooper, who tops a swag of off-contract stars at the Reds.
Love of the jersey won out over money for the Reds as Genia sacrificed up to $200,000 each year by turning his back on the Western Force to re-sign with the Super Rugby champions for three more years.
The 33-Test halfback put pen to paper on Monday morning, less than two days after the Queensland Rugby Union announced he was joining the Force in 2013 as news leaked in Perth he’d accepted a deal near $600,000 per season.
Genia, who made his debut in the Reds’ wooden-spoon year of 2007, changed his mind over the weekend after realising the ramifications of his defection.
The two-time Pilecki Medallist for Queensland player of the year said he felt loyalty-bound and feared he might never again savour a victory as much as the 23-11 win over the Blues on Friday night – their first at Eden Park.
“That feeling of satisfaction and pride in achieving the result with the guys around me was something I was afraid I wouldn’t have at another club and that’s a very scary thought,” he told AAP.
“That made me reconsider my decision and ultimately, potentially, saying goodbye to my teammates made me change my mind.
“Obviously the financial gains to go to Perth were far greater but it isn’t about money.
“I’d hate to have gone there because of money and not been happy. I’m willing to sacrifice that to stay here and be with my mates.
“I love the place. I wake every morning looking forward to coming to training and that’s too hard to give away.”
In the end, Queensland did not need to add an extra dollar to the $400,000 offer they’d tabled last week to keep their man.
Five-eighth Cooper now heads the QRU’s retention list which also includes Wallabies Scott Higginbotham, Ben Tapuai and Rod Davies, as well as James Hanson, Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley and former Test prop Greg Holmes.
While Genia’s contract will be a major dent in the yet-to-be-determined salary cap, coach Ewen McKenzie said his re-signing would definitely help rather than hinder keeping Cooper and co.
“No doubt Will staying will hopefully have a flow-on effect but we don’t have many guys left to sign,” said the coach, who is yet to announce some re-signings.
“This is a major plank for us to have tucked away so I’m pleased about that.”
A relieved McKenzie was just as happy Genia opted to commit to a lengthy deal which ties him to Ballymore until the end of 2015.
“That says a statement about what he thinks and that also might help some other guys make a decision.”
After initially being swayed by Wallabies flanker and friend David Pocock to move west, Genia made a point of thanking the Force for their understanding following his about-face.
The disappointment in Perth is otherwise good news for Australian rugby as Genia is locked in for the 2015 World Cup in England.
The deal must be ratified with a top-up component from the Australian Rugby Union but there’s little fear he’ll be lost to a lucrative overseas offer.