In a bombshell signing twist, and a pointer towards a more effective and strategic contracting system in Australia, Wallabies halfback Nic White is set to move to the Western Force next season.
What’s more, The Roar understands the move could have a domino effect elsewhere with Waratahs halfback Harrison Goddard in conversations to head to Canberra as a result.
It’s a huge coup for the Force, who are in desperate need of some international class in its backline, particularly with Gareth Simpson set to return to England.
But it’s also a boost for Australian rugby, who must retain as many of its stars as possible if Super Rugby is to make a mark once again in the crowded sports market Down Under.
White is not just the Wallabies’ first-choice No.9, he’s also one of the few recognisable Australian players at home and abroad.
The experienced Wallaby’s preference was to stay at the Brumbies, but financial constraints, especially from a Rugby Australia top-up perspective, has seen the Force be able to offer the halfback more money.
White could have moved abroad but has long expressed a desire to continue playing for the Wallabies and put himself in the best position to take on the British and Irish Lions in 2025.
“Yeah, bloody oath mate,” he told The Roar earlier in the year.
“Can’t you hear the excitement in my voice over the next five years how good it’ll be here.
“Of course I want to be here. That’s massive. That Lions series can be won or lost off one moment. It was Justin Harrison way back and it was probably Leigh Halfpenny’s boot or a miskick last time they were out, so it can be one moment that can win that series.
“It’s such a big series and yeah, I’d love to be a part of it.
By staying in Australia, he will put himself in a position to achieve both goals.
He is the second big name in as many weeks linked to a high-profile move to the Force, with James O’Connor set to make a remarkable return to the franchise 17 years after bursting onto the scene.
After Simon Cron was forced to pick up players from overseas in his first season in charge, the backline signings also reflect positively on the Force given they’re both Wallabies.
Wallabies coach Eddie Jones had a pointed crack at the Force on his podcast earlier in the year when he described the team as one resembling a Barbarians squad and not doing enough to push Australians.
That sentiment was backed up at Jones’ first Wallabies training squad, where Tom Robertson was the only Force player selected.
White is the perfect replacement for Englishman Simpson.
With Ian Prior in the twilight of his career, White looms as the perfect partner in crime with Issak Fines-Leleiwasa at the Force.
A former teammate of White at the Brumbies, Fines-Leleiwasa has taken another positive step in 2023 after returning to the Force last year.
A different player to White, Fines-Leleiwasa has the great ability to break open up a game and challenge defences around the ruck.
But he is still learning how to control the tempo of a match from the outset. White’s experience will help.
He will also help the development of Reesjan Pasitoa, who suffered an ACL injury last year which has robbed him of action in 2023.
Like Fines-Leleiwasa, Pasitoa played alongside White at the Brumbies.
Back at the Brumbies, meanwhile, White’s departure will see Ryan Lonergan left to take charge after playing second fiddle to the Wallabies halfback for years.
Although they have shared time in 2023, Lonergan will have more time to develop by being a regular starter.
He could have another young gun nipping at his heels too, with Goddard in conversations to join the Brumbies.
Goddard, 25, linked back with Darren Coleman this season after starring under him at the LA Giltinis.
But with Jake Gordon a regular 80-minute player and Teddy Wilson a rising star, Goddard has struggled for regular game time despite impressing observers earlier in the season.
Should he indeed join the Brumbies, he will give Stephen Larkham another readymade halfback.