George Moala Signs Offshore Contract–Adding to Long List

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George Moala Signs Offshore Contract--Adding to Long List
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 07: George Moala of the Blues makes a break during the match between the Auckland Blues and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park on June 7, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The list gets ever longer; with George Moala added to the former-All Blacks who have joined French Rugby. Clermont Auvergne confirming that the four test All Black is the latest in the long list of men headed offshore.

If fans are alarmed at this signing, it is a trend which does not seem like ending in modern rugby union. New Zealand, South African and Pacific Island International players seem to still be a target–where the draw of competing to further represent their country [appears to] have less allure than a lucrative contract in Europe.

Some will ask Why? Others will ask, How long until he goes?

Yet, Last Word on Rugby will present a question of When? When the contract begins, and what motivation players still have when signing a contract to leave their franchise/club at the end of an approaching Super Rugby season.

George Moala Signs Offshore Contract–Adding to Long List

It is an argument which Southern Hemisphere rugby has had with Northern Professional clubs since 1995. Ever since the professional club scene was authenticated by World Rugby, NZ rugby players have all too often been a prime target.

Just who accepts the contracts is always a surprise. From George Moala most recently, to both leading and mid-level Super Rugby players; Malakai Fekitoa and Joe Tomane, to name a couple.

The question of ‘who is next?’ can often be news to fans. And news to those franchises which those men are still contracted to.

So it was the Blues Super Rugby side who found out that one of their senior players would leave…..right after they announced their 2018 squad (in November). So, is that fair? And does it reinforce the call for an approved Transfer Window for those announcements to be made [midseason, or later].

Question of When Are You Leaving Then?

Mentioned before, the notion that a player might sign a contract up to a year prior to leaving their franchise/club is controversial. More a question of loyalty, as much as domestic fixture dates. Yes, sign your new contract, but risk the unrest of both your management and team mates, especially when that date is prior to a new season approaching especially.

And George Moala will still be involved in pre-season training where his team mates; and crucially management, will know he has less ‘buy in’ than others. How can they ensure that he is fully focused, when his agent has already shown that he is interested in foreign funds ahead of competing for a championship and/or national selection.

Others who have fallen into the same bracket are Charles Piutau, Liam Williams and Schalk Burger. Each announced well in advance, they would be leaving their respective clubs.

Money must be a key motivator–some men clearly make the distinction [think Piutau speaking of securing his families future]. Tana Umaga might have been consulted, but if he knows one player is leaving, and another player is not….then how can he select fairly?

How can that be of any benefit to your current team? Which contracted player should benefit over an entire season? The leaving man, or one who is staying with the franchise.

Should Loyalty and Blues ‘Future Stability’ Judge George Moala

Joining the French club, George Moala will have company in making plans so far out from himself leaving his team mates. Charlie Faumuina did exactly the same in 2016, and still played his part in the Blues Super Rugby campaign. But critically, he had no more consideration as a part of the All Blacks future planning.

Moala will too be discounted now from selection by the All Blacks–and while that was known by his non-selection since 2016, it did not wholly see Moala out of contention.

Faumuina did see his Blues selection by Tana Umaga as a reinforcement of his importance to that squad. Steven Luatua was another, who mid-season announced the end of his Blues term and was given a continuing role. Although, Blues coaches would have also needed to consider future stability [in there judgement of contracted player standings]. So knowing earlier has one benefit in who to focus on, but it leaves fans in disbelief.

So, when Moala was confirmed to have signed for Clermont, why should other Blues’ midfield contracted players 2018 season selection then be impeded? Matt Vaega and Caleb Clarke can now each believe that long term, they must be afforded more consistent selection this upcoming season–since Moala is leaving. Certainly they must be told this by management.

Also, with the widespread reporting that Rieko Ioane intends to move to a center position (at sometime) how much did that influence Moala’s decision? News must be circling within the squad, to the detriment of Moala’s standing in the franchise.

Tana Umaga to Decide How to Utilize Moala/Kaino

As a head coach, how do you choose to stay loyal with selection? And if so, will the franchise partner clubs not ask that their players now be given opportunities? North Harbour, Auckland and Northland, for them it seems like an inconvenient position–forced upon Blues management, through a players decision eight months out from leaving.

But it will face every franchise, as the demand of French Top14 Clubs continues to impede on the resources of Southern Hemisphere rugby–it did so last year, for all 5 franchises. Even allowing for a 67 cap figure like George Moala, the possibility that a 127 cap player like Jerome Kaino may likely sign for Toulon* is a concern. Having men like this leave the Blues franchise would extremely damage the squads foundations.

Kaino has long been a dominant figure within the franchise, and is the only link from the 2003 winning squad–his seniority would be lost on the field, as much in his and Moala’s leadership roles (*if reports that the loose forward were to leave too).

George Moala the Latest to Leave NZ Rugby

The argument is as much ‘how far out that announcements like Moalas’ can affect a franchises chances at a Super Rugby title? But so much as, when these announcements are made, how they affect the suitability of that player to play a major part in teams planning?

Should he be continued to be seen as a senior leader? Is there a question over motivation and (if the confirmation of Kaino’s loss to French rugby) how damaging it is to the sides chances? Umaga is faced with this question, yet how do fans now support Moala?

Do they cheer?…..or jeer?

Others are surely to follow over the next 12 months. The record from 2017 was lengthy, with Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa and Loni Uhila all abandoning any hopes of furthering International rugby hopes, to play in France/United Kingdom.

 

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