Cash conduit expanding Wallabies’ lost XV
CASHED-up overseas clubs have run a vacuum over Australian rugby, sucking out the country's best talent in the prime of their careers - but who's really to blame for the exodus?
Long gone are those days when Michael Lynagh and Tim Horan only looked at overseas clubs in their 30s after winning World Cups, Bledisloe Cups and playing 100 games for Queensland.
The market forces that woo our best players abroad have never been this strong.
We say it every year and it's true every year.
It's not just Samu Kerevi heading to the Suntory club because top lock Adam Coleman, 27, is off to London Irish after the World Cup finishes in November.
Not even the Kiwis are immune. New Zealand rugby is having to get more and more creative to keep hold of stars under the rule they must play in New Zealand to represent the All Blacks.
Kingpin Brodie Retallick revealed his long-term deal with NZ rugby until 2023 would include a two-season sabbatical in Japan with Kobelco Steelers.
Basically, it means the Kiwis will have the world's best lock on their books but won't call on him for a Test between November and June, 2021.
All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett may be the next to get creative with a Japan-NZ deal.
Contracting is an imperfect science.
In Australia, it is built around player agents always believing their big name clients are worth more, stars believing it, priority targets for Super Rugby clubs and Rugby Australia cautiously opening the pursestrings.
Sometimes this four-cornered dance delivers the ideal result with a new deal and sometimes there's an illogical crossroads like the Kerevi conundrum.
It defies all reason that a player hitting his prime should be lost from the Queensland Reds to Suntory.
Kerevi is coming off his most complete season as a Super Rugby centre and he's taken huge strides as a leader because he wants that responsibility, on and off the field.
All those aces on the table would suggest a robust and positive discussion to keep him here.
Most pointedly, it seems Kerevi was promised to Suntory months ago and the deal was struck before the usual back-and-forth with Rugby Australia even got rolling.
The 25-Test Kerevi may be a $1 million-a-season player for cashed-up Suntory but he's not yet worth that as a Wallaby.
He's played in one winning team in five Tests against the All Blacks and is 0-4 against England so dominating Tests consistently is one thing that is still ahead of him.
He's playing well enough, with some expanded passing and offloading touches, to suggest that this may well be his year.
Kerevi has kept it cryptic with lines like "it's not up to me" as if he'll be a reluctant figure at the departure gates.
That could mean he's handed all responsibility on the call to agent Anthony Picone or it's up to RA to pull some magic rabbit out of the hat.
How vast was the difference between what RA was willing to offer and what Kerevi could command in Japan?
Could Rugby Australia have got creative with a multi-year deal?
The odour to all of this is that there were never enough meaningful discussions before the deal was done.
You can add another Reds' name to the departing class of 2019.
It seemed only a blink ago that Caleb Timu, 25, was making his 2018 Test debut but he's now signed to French club Montpellier.
THE LOST XV: Israel Folau, Sefa Naivalu (Stade Francais, France), Samu Kerevi (Suntory, Japan), Duncan Paia'aua (Toulon, France), Curtis Rona (London Irish, England), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Japan-likely), Wharenui Hawera (Kubota, Japan), Nick Phipps (London Irish, England), Scott Higginbotham (Bordeaux, France), David Pocock (Panasonic Wild Knights, Japan), Caleb Timu (Montpellier, France), Rory Arnold (Toulouse, France), Adam Coleman (London Irish, England), Sam Carter (Ulster, Northern Ireland), Sekope Kepu (London Irish, England).