Genia wants 400,000 reasons to stay
Queensland Reds scrumhalf Will Genia. Photo: Getty Images
Will Genia's management has set the star halfback's price at lofty $400,000 per season as the Queensland Reds fight to retain the signature of their influential Wallaby playmaker.
The 24-year-old has made it clear he is strongly considering moving overseas when his contract expires at the end of the season, telling Fairfax this month he hopes the Reds and ARU "make the decision for me by making me have to stay".
That might be easier said than done for rugby beancounters. Early negotiations have already started between the parties, with brisbanetimes.com.au being told the starting price for Genia would be $400,000 from the Reds, excluding any top-up from the Australian Rugby Union.
That figure would likely make Genia the highest-paid player at Ballymore, eclipsing stars like Wallaby captain James Horwill and the highly bankable Quade Cooper, who headlines a long list of Reds players yet to decide their playing destination for 2013.
Given the success of the Reds last season, it was inevitable key players would seek bolstered deals when it came time to renegotiate contracts. But new salary cap restrictions and a focus on retaining future Wallabies like Liam Gill (already re-signed) means chief executive Jim Carmichael faces a real juggling act to try and retain the core of the championship group.
Cooper is yet to play in 2012, leading many to suspect he is likely to remain with the Reds for at least another season as he plays his way back into form and tries to return to the top shelf of the player's market. That will certainly help Queensland in their pursuit of Genia's signature, with the pair sharing a close bond on and off the field that had stretches back to when the duo were juniors.
But Genia's continued musings about heading offshore must be a concern for the QRU, even if the franchise has turned its books around to record a $1.46 million dollar profit in 2011 after drowning in red ink for years.
"I'd love to stay in Queensland and still have the option to play for Australia but at the same time you can't close yourself off to what else is out there, other opportunities that may present themselves," Genia told Fairfax earlier this month.
The notion was floated as far back as last year's Rugby World Cup, with Genia suggesting that he may be growing restless in Australia and could be tempted by the lure of travel and financial gain offered in countries like France and Japan.
His Papua New Guinean parents have urged him to delay any international move and to remain in Australia for the 2013 Lions Tour and another World Cup, but Genia is giving serious consideration to shifting early, meaning he could walk away from the Wallabies at the peak of his powers.
As well as Genia and Cooper, the Reds must find a way to accommodate James Hanson, Mike Harris, Greg Holmes, Ed Quirk, Scott Higginbotham, Ben Lucas, Ben Tapuai, Dom Shipperley, Rod Davies and Guy Shepardson.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie and a restructured front office have thus far done a stellar job on player retention and recruitment, a massive problem for the franchise pre-McKenzie when playing for Queensland was as desirable as being first off the boat on D-Day.
McKenzie as negotiator is about to face his biggest test, with Genia and Cooper the undoubted faces of a side that electrified rugby in Queensland after the code spent years as the unrequited loser lurking in the corner.
The Australian provinces are awaiting final confirmation of what their salary cap will be next season, with the most likely scenario being $4.8 million. It's been reported that at least the last $800,000 of that must come from the province.