Transfer silly season is now well underway, with players and coaches making big decisions on where they will be plying their trade come September next year. As more money comes into the game, the rugby transfer market slides closer to that of football, and rumours start earlier and earlier.
At the Cardiff Blues though, we’re stuck in a coach-less limbo, brought on by the departure of Danny Wilson at the end of the season and the increasingly slow response in naming his successor. The negatives of a thorough search are starting to show.
When the announcement was made that Danny would be moving on to pastures new we were lead to believe that a new coach would be appointed by the end of November. This seemed to be all in order when it was reported shortlisting had been done just before the Autumn Internationals.
However, here we are a week into December and there is still no sign of a new man being revealed. The club remains silent on the matter, and supporters are getting decidedly tetchy.
So far the Cardiff Blues senior management have acted swiftly to secure a number of players on new contracts. Corey Domachowski, Seb Davies, Rhun Williams and Owen Lane have all pledged their futures to the club, as have senior squad members Lloyd Williams, Josh Turnbull and Blaine Scully.
This initially eased concerns as, despite criticism from certain areas outside the Cardiff Blues supporters base that signing these players before a new head coach is announced is somehow a negative, each one makes perfect sense.
Lloyd, Turnbull and Scully are clear crowd favourites as well as being leaders within the squad and quality players in their own right, and if a coach was to come in and be disappointed that those young players had been tied down on long-term professional contracts, then they are not the right man to be the Cardiff Blues head coach.
Now there are rumours regarding players leaving, at the same time as other teams are beginning their recruitment for next season in earnest. Recently it’s been Ellis Jenkins to Ospreys, Alex Cuthbert to Gloucester and Rey Lee-Lo to France. We also know a high number of players are out of contract in May.
It’s also at a point where the management would be taking risks if they were to re-sign certain players. There are out of contract players who are beyond that 18-25 age range, and aren’t classed as first choice, that we cannot re-sign on the basis that the new coach might not have them in his plans.
Finally, we cannot begin to recruit until the new head coach has been appointed. It is unfair to ask Danny Wilson to deal with any future recruitment, and we cannot ask the other coaching staff in case the new man wants to replace them, while the club management are not rugby coaches qualified to make calls on new players.
There is also a side point that players who we do want to re-sign, an Ellis Jenkins for example, might be put off by the uncertainty over who his head coach would be next season.
As the Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets already get ahead on signing players for next season, there is now real concern that we at Cardiff Blues may find ourselves falling behind the other Welsh clubs in terms of getting a competitive squad together.
With all that in mind it’s really getting to crunch time in terms of nailing down the new head coach. Of course taking the time to get the recruitment process right is the correct thing to do, but at some point the search will cross the line into ‘taking too long’ territory. That time is almost upon us.
We are starting to risk our chances of being competitive next season, therefore the pressure is on the Cardiff Blues management. They’ve done well with player retention so far, let’s hope that extends to head coach recruitment. Time is ticking…