MELBOURNE Rebels coach Damien Hill has declared the veterans now causing a log-jam as they head to the exits have completed the job required by a fledgling club and will leave it with a legacy to take it to a promising future.
Utility back Mark Gerrard, who has been one of the Rebels' best performers in the club's short existence, on Friday night announced he would join the list of veterans either retiring or playing elsewhere at the end of this season.
Fellow former Wallabies Stirling Mortlock, Julian Huxley and Al Campbell, plus former England breakaway Michael Lipman, have all announced their departures and it is expected more will follow.
''The fact that it was a new club, we chose to recruit players in a certain age group for their experience and leadership and we always knew that for a lot of them it was going to be their last contract and this is just a consequence of it,'' Hill said.
''I still think it was the right decision to make. The club's in a good place and is moving in the right direction and those senior players have had a lot to do with that.
''This place is continuing to build. I'm excited where it is headed but the player changes that we need to go through next year is part and parcel of a start-up club.''
He said the Rebels would have liked to have kept Gerrard but they could not compete with the money on offer in Japan, where he will play for a second-division club.
''He's been one of our best players,'' Hill said. ''We'll miss him … he's been a leader, he's covered full-back, wing and outside-centre for us and he's got one of the best kicking games in the whole competition. We fully respect his decision - we're lucky to have had him for the time we have.''
Gerrard has not ruled out returning to the Rebels, although he believes his rugby days will probably end in Japan.
The 29-year-old did not reveal his decision to leave until after the Rebels' 32-17 loss to the Reds on Friday night, leaving the limelight to remain on retiring skipper Mortlock's final game in Australia.
''I'm just happy to drift off into the wilderness,'' Gerrard said. ''I didn't want to make a fuss.''
Gerrard plans to play one match of the Rebels' upcoming two games in South Africa to finish the season and then return for the birth of his son in Sydney. The Rebels have announced a 26-man squad for games against the Lions in Johannesburg and the Stormers in Cape Town.
Star back James O'Connor is out after re-injuring his hamstring but Mortlock, who has been battling a calf problem, is included.
Lloyd Johansson will come in for O'Connor.