Waratahs coach Rob Penney says the “heavy hit” players took to their salary last year played a part in Wallaby Jack Dempsey’s decision decided to leave the club at the end of this Super Rugby AU season.
Dempsey’s departure is a massive blow ahead of their Super Rugby AU opener against the Reds on Friday, with
Once upon a time the Waratahs were the A-listers in town, with international talent littered throughout their squad.
Now, they barely register double digits – in caps and players.
With Australian skipper Michael Hooper on sabbatical, Dempsey is the Waratahs’ most experience Wallaby with 14 appearances.
But the Wallabies back-rower, who wasn’t chosen during Dave Rennie’s first year as head coach, is the latest to leave the Waratahs.
Under-siege coach Rob Penney admitted the Waratahs sought to keep the 26-year-old, who made his Super Rugby debut in 2015, but for “a lot of reasons” Dempsey had departed.
He will join Glasgow Warriors at season’s end.
“We didn’t want to lose him,” Penney told reporters ahead of their local derby in Brisbane.
“It’s the nature of the beast.
“The boys took a heavy hit last year with salaries and so forth – there’s some pretty attractive opportunities for them offshore. Some of it we’d rather not happen, but it’s the realities of the environment.”
The fact Dempsey was not selected for the Wallabies played a strong part in his decision to head offshore.
Rennie told Dempsey, who was player of the match against the All Blacks during the Wallabies’ Suncorp triumph in 2017, he needed to work harder off the ball.
✍️ Wallabies to Warriors
14-times capped Australian back-rower Jack Dempsey is heading to Scotstoun this summer, as the 26-year-old becomes Head Coach Danny Wilson's latest new signing ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.#WhateverItTakes ⚔️🛡️
And without a Rugby Australia top-up, Dempsey went sniffing for deals last year.
It’s understood he turned down a deal worth $300,000 from the Western Force.
It’s also believed Dempsey was left frustrated the Waratahs were attempting to make ends meet rather than win.
With not a single player remaining from their maiden Super Rugby triumph in 2014, the financially strained Waratahs, who have made the finals just once since Michael Cheika left in 2015, are operating well beneath the salary cap.
One-Test Wallabies prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, however, said the playing group was firmly behind New Zealand coach Penney, who is in his second year with the Waratahs.
“I know Jack’s reasons aren’t a matter of a jumping off a sinking ship or anything,” he said.
“We’re really confident in the playing group we have here and, although young, we’re keen for the season and the future.”
The Waratahs will be without Wallabies enforce Lachie Swinton as well as new second-row recruit Sam Wykes for their season opener.
Penney will name his team on Wednesday night, with ex-NRL back-rower Tepai Moeroa likely to start at inside centre.
Izaia Perese is expected to make his return to Super Rugby against his former club off the bench, with Joey Walton in-line to partner Moeroa.
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