By Alan Dymock
THE PHRASE ‘wantaway’ has been plastered all over tabloid back pages this summer as wonga-spoilt strikers and midfielders who had previously shook the chip-fat from their slicked back hair as they furiously denied any transfer dealings are shown to be courting moves abroad.
Rugby fans tend to scoff at the excesses and disloyalty of the modern footballer. From trademarking celebrations to kissing badges like a politician meeting babies on a campaign trail, soccer’s finest are often painted as greedy and disingenuous.
Having been professional for much longer than rugby, though, football is simply more practiced in the art of the transfer. Rugby can come across more clumsy and just as mercenary when money is involved. Any disloyalty is simply a different kind in the oval ball game. A stint in Japan before returning for a bout of Rugby Championship action around New Zealand and Argentina? That’s acceptable, it seems, because it’s just for the money. Enjoy the sabbatical. Don’t get hurt.
Rugby still retains some differences, of course. Deals will tend to wait until a contract is genuinely nearing completion, and most players will respect this. Rarely do players try to play themselves out of a side because another club is interested. Once a pre-contract is signed it is unlikely that a player will give up for the rest of the season.
So when you get those who maintain the honourable streak and do not want the ostentatious life and trappings that come with a move – but who could play at a much more competitive club – it is hard to offer moral advice.
Toby Faletau is heading for ‘showdown talks’ with the Newport Gwent Dragons and the WRU and club are desperate to keep the talent at home. He could do incredibly well elsewhere and people will certainly have been advising him that now is the time to move, guarantees and ties be damned. He is a quiet lad, though, and perhaps should be more selfish for the sake of his (financial) career. Whatever happens, Faletau will see out his contract for this year.
If he does move there will be suitors. He could play in England and he could play in France. If, that is, he can cope with being outside of Wales.
A sit-down is set with new coach Lyn Jones, who garnered so much respect for his exploits with London Welsh. Dan Lydiate is gone and much emphasis may be placed on Faletau throughout the season, as Jones does not have a huge pot to play with. As one of the more reserved personalities he may enjoy this unexpectedly or he may shrink away. If this is offset against the big money in a land far, far away from his nice cosy home, does he stay loyal?
It will be interesting to see if the no.8 wants away or if he is being propelled by external forces. Either way, if it comes down to money like so many seedy transactions in sport before, it is hard to see Dragons competing in an open market.