Waratahs must ensure Phil Waugh doesn't leave Australia - TuqiriMore than ever, the powerbrokers at the New South Wales Waratahs and Australian rugby need to make sure they do everything possible to keep Phil Waugh at the Waratahs.
There's no better example of what Waugh brings to a team than what happened just before half-time against the Highlanders on Friday night.
The bloke got knocked out with a knee to the head and was down for about 30 seconds. NSW officials would have been questioning if he wanted to come off. Waughie just got up, rolled his shoulders and stuck his head in a scrum.
You can't buy leadership like that. For as long as I've been associated with him, Waugh has been a leader. Not so much with words, but with actions.
In a lot of ways he's a throwback to some of the really tough league blokes from the 1960s and 1970s. Blokes like John Sattler and Kevin 'Kandos' Ryan.
He has that toughness you can't coach or manufacture. It comes from within and it's truly a special quality. Coaches love it and respect it.
If you look back at our first game against the Hurricanes, Waugh's head got opened up by a boot from Rodney Soliola.
Despite blood pouring out of his head, Waughie just wanted to play on. Tape it up, I'll be sweet, forget about the modelling career. That was his attitude.
My feeling is Phil's not done playing for NSW or the Wallabies yet. Sure, he's been there for 10 years, but he is such a competitor that he will want to continue at the top level until he feels he can't make a contribution there anymore.
At 29, he's still got plenty of quality football left in him. And I'm sure there is no shortage of cashed-up European clubs who would want to sign him.
But from a selfish perspective, we still need him at NSW.
The group we have right now is one of the most tight-knit collection of blokes I have been involved with in my time in rugby. We need to continue to try to capitalise on that.
As a leader, Waughie is irreplaceable at the Waratahs. From the way he challenges different aspects of what we're trying to do, to the commitment he expects from everyone, he's first class all the way.
You can put a big part of the results we have been able to achieve both last season and this year down to him.
It's no coincidence that under his leadership, NSW have enjoyed tremendous success. From his preparation to his short and sharp team talks before a game, he's the ultimate professional.
Ultimately, it will be up to the ARU and the Waratahs about what sort of offer they want to put to Waugh. The fact George Smith is also off contract will make it interesting.
Australian rugby has been blessed to have had two world class openside flankers like this pair for the past 10 years. I just hope we can keep them both.
We have already lost too many talented players to overseas clubs when they could still be playing at the top level here.http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,25118666-5002381,00.html