Gloucester Rugby: Money isn't everthing in retaining top stars
MONEY is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to retaining Gloucester's top talent, reveals Nigel Davies.
Gloucester have started the fight to tie down their out-of-contracts stars earlier than ever before.
Come January, rival clubs can make official contract offers for any Cherry and Whites stars still to sign new deals.
Gloucester have a sizeable 24 first team players whose contracts will expire at the end of the season.
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Rugby director Davies does not expect to concede much ground in contract offers within the Premiership.
But clearly the vast riches on offer across the Channel are a constant lure.
The former Wales centre has pledged to offer his Gloucester stars a 'unique' package to stay at the club.
Davies hopes Gloucester stars understand that now, if they commit to the club in the long-term, the club will look after them beyond their playing days.
Mike Tindall, Alex Brown and now Pete Buxton have all joined the Kingsholm coaching staff, bridging the gap from one career to the next.
Academy manager Andrew Stanley has been promoted to forwards coach.
Davies wants his younger Cherry and Whites charges to appreciate that when their playing days wind down, they too can secure smooth transition to life after the Premiership – without having to leave Kingsholm.
"I think it's huge, the whole player welfare issue, we're looking at it extremely closely, and that's very important.
"We did some things this year that the club hasn't done in previous years, only little things, like taking the players to a race day and for a meal.
"They are little things, but they mean a lot, it shows the club cares, and we do.
"We're looking to progress that, and actually provide a package for Gloucester Rugby players that is unique.
"We're not going to compete with some clubs purely on a monetary level, but there are other things we do that go over and above that.
"We've seen guys who have come through the system now being employed with Gloucester.
"I was only telling Andy Hazell the other day that he'd better retire soon, because I'm running out of jobs to give out!
"Last year we didn't lose anyone we didn't want to lose, so we were able to manage that process reasonably well.
"This year we're a bit further down the track, and I suppose we're victims really of the performance of individuals and the team collectively at times last year.
"We've got a lot more international rugby players.
"All of a sudden their profile increases and that puts us under pressure when it comes to re-signing.
"But the important thing is that these guys realise it's not all about money.
"Money is important to these players, as it's a relatively short career.
"But the environment they're working in and whether they're enjoying their rugby or not also has to have a big part to play in all that.
"I'm sure all the boys in the squad are enjoying their rugby and the environment, and they'll appreciate that as much as anyone else."
Davies is acutely aware that the club must meet market value for their top stars, with the profile of many rising rapidly.
Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees are the perfect example.
Burns signed his last new deal when Twelvetrees arrived for the start of the 2012/13 season.
One stellar campaign and both are now poised to become England mainstays, with Twelvetrees ending the summer as a British Lion.
As their stock rockets, so too does the size of contract value.
Composing a salary-cap Premiership squad and retaining all the top talent is rugby's most complex jigsaw puzzle.
Davies explained: "There's a couple of things you do first in the process, first of all you gauge where the salaries are.
"There's a salary band for British Lions players, there's a salary band for international rugby players, a band for senior players, squad players and development players.
"There's a general level of payment that is common in the Premiership, it has to be, because of the budgets we all work to and the squads we have to carry.
"First it's establishing what that is, so when you're talking to the player those are the figures you're talking about, so they're not a million miles different from what they'd be getting at any other Premiership team.
"You start there, then you look at your priorities, where do they fall within that band, how much money that's going to take out of your budget.
"Then you look at where there will be natural wastage in your squad, players at the end of their career or moving on, but that's never straightforward.
"That's where you start.
"Then there's a whole other set of circumstances that comes on top of that, that makes it all a big conundrum."
OUT OF CONTRACT AT THE END OF 2013/14:
FRONT-ROW: Huia Edmonds, Rupert Harden, Darren Dawidiuk, Shaun Knight, Dan George.
LOCK: Lua Lokotui, Will James.
BACK-ROW: Sione Kalamafoni, Akapusi Qera, Matt Cox, Andy Hazell.
SCRUM-HALF: Jimmy Cowan.
FLY-HALF: Freddie Burns, Tim Taylor, Jonny Bentley.
WING: James Simpson-Daniel, Charlie Sharples.
CENTRE: Billy Twelvetrees, Henry Trinder, Tim Molenaar, Ryan Mills, Mike Tindall.
FULL-BACK: Rob Cook, Martyn Thomas.