Tahs in turmoil: Hanigan and Harrison jump sinking ship, skipper forced to stay, CEO complains of ‘tricky’ task


Will the last person left at the Waratahs please turn off the lights? The exodus from Super Rugby’s bottom placed team has continued with Wallabies forward Ned Hanigan and feel good story of the year Will Harrison becoming the latest players to confirm departures at the end of the season.

Hanigan has signed a two-year deal in France, whilst Harrison will move to Japan on a two-year agreement.

It’s a month since Harrison returned from a lengthy layoff and potted a golden point field goal to edge the Crusaders. That ice cool performance had some suggesting he was the nerveless playmaker the Wallabies could do with.

“It was my dream to play for the Waratahs since I first picked up a rugby ball,” Harrison said in a statement.

“To pull on that sky blue jersey meant the absolute world to me, and I never took it for granted.

“I’d like to thank my teammates, coaches, members, and fans for making my time at the Waratahs so memorable.

(Photo by Pete Dovgan/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But Harrison has decided to take a two-year deal in Japan.

Hanigan is heading to France on a two-year deal of his own. He debuted for the Tahs in 2016 but played in Japan before returning. He showed glimpses of his best form in a poor team this season and could have played a role for new Wallabies Joe Schmidt.

Hanigan, 29, has 28 Test caps.

“I remember first walking into training back in 2015 and thinking how special it would be to be able to play for this great club one day,” Hanigan said in statement.

“I’ve been so lucky over the years to have donned this special jersey.

“I’ve loved taking the field with some of my best mates and representing my family and community of Coonamble the best I can.

“Thank you to the families that turn up to watch us. Thank you to the kids that stick around after the games. Thank you to the people who watch at home. And a massive thanks to the people week in, week out that keep our game going here in NSW.

“I’m really going to miss this place. I wish the Waratahs nothing but the best and I’ll always be a supporter of the sky blue.”

Will Harrison of the Waratahs celebrates kicking the winning field goal in golden point during the round eight Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Crusaders at Allianz Stadium, on April 12, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mark Nawaqanitawase (Roosters), Izaia Perese (Leicester), Lachlan Swinton (Bordeaux), Harry Wilson (Dragons) and Mosese Tuipulotu (Edinburgh) have already announced their departures and they might not be the last.

Jake Gordon reportedly sought an early exit from his contract to play overseas but was refused permission by Rugby Australia as one of three RA contracted No.9s along with Tate McDermott and Nic White.

The other big name departure expected at the end of this season is that of coach Darren Coleman, whose future has been the subject of intense debate and dithering on behalf of the club.

NSW Rugby CEO Paul Doorn told Wide World of Sports that player and staff retention was a “difficult” task.

“We’ve been very clear in communicating with our all our staff and players around ‘this is where we find ourselves.’ It’s very difficult, to commit to people as of today,” Doorn said.

“We’ve still got work to be done in that space… and I appreciate that it’s a global market out there.

“So, when people are offered opportunities, then all I ask – and which is what we’ve always done – is sit down and have a conversation about the opportunities that exist here. But we’re not in the business of promising people and doing things out of cycle.

“There’s a a very clear process and the timeframe associated with that. But it’s one of the most tricky things about running a rugby business, is that it’s a global game.

“And with that comes opportunities… how do you get people to continue their career progression here, and overlay that with our time frames of the decision making with three rounds to go? It’s really difficult.”

The on-going issue of talent leaving Australian shores also puts the spotlight back on the Giteau Law – with Schmidt saying he backs home based players for the Wallabies.

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