Kurtley Beale’s decision to return to Australia is a sign players are choosing Tests over European cash, Waratahs coach Dary Gibson says.
While Beale would have remained eligible for the Wallabies while playing overseas, having passed 60 Tests, the utility back opted to return home to play a major role in 2019 World Cup preparations.
Beale’s return follows that of Sekope Kepu and Quade Cooper in recent times, though 2017 will also see the departure of Rob Horne and Scott Fardy.
Gibson said it was pleasing to see more players opt to stay put, shunning big money offers.
“I think it’s more a vote for the international game and the Australian jersey, it’s wonderful,” he said.
“You’ve got players deciding, ‘I’m going forego a big money payday and chase a dream’.
“It’s a similar story in New Zealand with (All Blacks) Ben Smith and Israel Dagg turning down big offers to remain and be part of a legacy.
“I think that’s an important thing and it's a great decision that they’re going to put the jersey in front of that.”
Given Beale qualified under the ‘Giteau Law’, the Waratahs are the big beneficiaries in his decision to come back to Super Rugby.
Beale’s contract with Wasps ends as the season does, with the back likely to be available for the Wallabies June series, but Gibson said it was ‘unlikely’ he would feature in Super Rugby this season.
The 28-year-old would need four games to qualify for any finals matches but Gibson did not rule out the possibility of Beale suiting up in some final regular season matches became must win.
"He’ll arrive after the conclusion of the northern hemisphere season and I imagine he’ll be available for Australia in June," he said.
“His contract is ‘18, he’s made it very clear that he’s here to go through to the World Cup and help Australia fulfill their dream."
“I’m not going to say no ,but certainly it’s unlikely.”
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper said waking up to the Beale news in South Africa was a boost for the side but no shock to his longtime teammate.
“It says a lot about Kurtley’s character and his want to strive for something and strive for something he’s passionate about,” he said.
“There’s no question Kurtley’s always been passionate about playing for Australia and the Waratahs.
“So, to me waking up it wasn’t a huge surprise, a really nice bit of news but it wasn’t a huge surprise because Kurtley’s always worn his heart on his sleeve when he’s played for teams.
“I’m just happy for Kurtley and happy to see that intensity brought back to us here at the Tahs and the Wallabies.”
Whether he features in 2017 or not for the Waratahs, Hooper said Beale would bring an extra energy to the side.
“He knows the Waratahs layout indoors, back to front, he knows what we’re about here. Having him in and around here would be fantastic,” he said.
While Beale is locked in, the Waratahs still have one big fish yet to be netted, with Israel Folau off-contract this season.
Gibson said the Waratahs were obviously keen to retain the superstar, but that negotiations were in the hands of the ARU, given he is a top up player.