Darren Coleman should be back in Sydney by now.
His Los Angeles Giltinis won their title last weekend and it was reported he’d be flying back in the following days.
I imagine he’s sitting in hotel quarantine ramping up planning for the Waratahs 2022 season.
The Waratahs have been announcing signings through their reset ’22 campaign and the squad is already looking a lot stronger. Thirty players have been announced, so there should be five full contracts left available.
Let’s look at the leavers.
Joe Cotton has gone to Bristol, Chris Talakai to Bayonne, Jack Dempsey to Glasgow, Tepai Moeroa to the Melbourne Storm and Jack Maddocks to Pau.
There are a number of full contract players from last season that have not been announced as either leaving, nor announced as re-signed. Sio Tatola, Sam Caird, Carlo Tizzano and Charlie Gamble all sit in that boat.
Last year’s short-term contract and Extended Playing Squad players that we haven’t heard news on yet are props Darcy Breen and Vunipola Fifita, backrower Michael Wood, halfback Henry Robertson and winger James Turner.
But enough on who is not there. Who are the 30 signed so far?
Angus Bell will be the starting loosehead and is joined in the squad by another very promising young player, the 19-year-old Adrian Brown.
Brown’s highlights on YouTube show a promising scrummager and strong ball carrying. Definitely one to watch having been signed to the Waratahs Academy as a 17-year-old and making his Shute Shield debut at 18.
Dave Porecki remains at hooker with Tom Horton hoping his third season will be stronger than his second.
A third hooker is required. Cotton is a big loss; the alternates used in the last two seasons are nearing the end of their careers and we need someone developing.
Harry Johnson-Holmes will remain as the starting tighthead, based on the squad so far, with Tiaan Tauakipulu hoping to be over the injuries that kept him out after his promising debut in 2020.
Tet Faulkner can prop on both sides but is slowing down. One more prop will be needed to support this group.
If Cabous Eloff is deemed the first choice tighthead at the Rebels then I’d love this to be Pone Fa’amausili – he’d be first choice at tighthead and it would force great competition among Johnson-Holmes and the other props.
Jack Whetton and Max Douglas are the pure locks in the side. Whetton played injured last year, so the side will be looking for stronger performance this season.
Light lock/hybrid backrowers seem to be the one area fully loaded in the squad so far. Ned Hanigan and Jed Holloway are welcome returnees, joining Jeremy Williams and Hugh Sinclair.
One or two of that prior group will be playing lock, while others will back up Lachlan Swinton at 6.
Michael Hooper is back at openside, and we need a player to back up to develop. I’d love this to be Tizzano but he already looks ready to start somewhere.
Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco is listed with both his positions of centre and number 8, with Will Harris continuing and youngster Langi Gleeson added.
I’ve only watched Gleeson’s highlights but he moves like a young David Lyons, a big man with a smooth running style and deceptive step.
A man of the match performance for the Waratah As versus the Brumby Runners last year showed Gleeson’s promise only two years after leaving school.
Jake Gordon and Jack Grant are the halves. A third halfback is needed, this may be Robertson from the EPS.
Michael McDonald back at the Force last season, was a big loss and too good a young player to be getting the minimal minutes he’s likely to see.
At flyhalf, Will Harrison and Ben Donaldson have both been retained. Potentially one of them plays fullback with Maddocks departing.
In the midfield, Lalakai Foketi, Tane Edmed, Joey Walton and Izaia Perese are all back, with the aforementioned Warren-Vosayaco capable of playing here as well.
James Ramm, Alex Newsome, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Triston Reilly round out the outside backs.
So, what is needed in those last five spots Coleman needs to fill?
A tighthead prop, hooker, openside and halfback are non-negotiable.
As much as I’d like another pure lock in the squad, the number of hybrid 5/6s puts paid to that. Another centre would be nice but the last spot really has to be a fullback.
All of Harrison, Donaldson, Nawaqanitawase, Ramm and Perese can play the custodial role but it isn’t the first choice for any of them yet.
Much will depend on injuries and where Warren-Vosayaco plays.
Will be interesting to see who Coleman identifies for the remaining roles.
This Waratahs side are not likely to be challenging for the title next year but look well set up to take some significant strides forward.