ONE of Alan Tait’s biggest frustrations at Kingston Park is the way the club have become a breeding ground for the powerhouses of English rugby who keep poaching their best young players.
Newcastle have managed to keep the core of their first-team squad this season, with key players like James Hudson, Tim Swinson and Jonny Golding signing new contracts, while adding experience and class in the shape of Euan Murray and Kiwi Andrew van der Heijden.
With Auckland centre Jamie Helleur and Otago’s Ryan Shortland joining exciting Gloucester scrum-half Jordi Pasqualin on Tyneside next season, Tait feels his squad is gradually improving, but he is annoyed the process is being undermined by departures.
Young prop Kieran Brookes will move to Leciester at the end of the season, where he will be joined by scrum-half Micky Young.
Both would have been key members of Tait’s squad next season, but have been lured elsewhere, even though, when they get there, they may well find they are little more than second, third choice or even fourth choice in their positions.
“We have a good group of young players and there are more coming through the Academy,” said Tait, who will be up against another of Newcastle’s departed stars, England international Davey Wilson, when they take on Bath tomorrow.
“Our problem is other clubs try to poach them. Look at Kieran Brookes and Micky Young. It is very disappointing they are leaving us because we have developed them and nurtured them.
“Just as they are getting the experience they need to kick on, someone else comes in and takes them. Will those moves work out for them? I don’t know. How much rugby will they get? They have been told one thing, only time will tell whether it was true.
“They have got tremendous exposure here in the North East, but they have made their decision to leave and we have to just accept that.
“These big clubs can sign players, stick them in the squad and stick them on the bench. We haven’t got those sorts of resources. I was the same as a player. I wanted to play for the big clubs with the big players playing in front of big crowds, lifting trophies. We can’t promise them that here, but that is what we want to achieve. It is hard when you keep losing these young players, but we are moving in the right direction off the pitch and I have to say the board have been fantastic.
“We are looking at giving our young players long term contracts, tying them here for three or four years, not the quick fix of one year deals.”
Tait has money to spend this summer, but he does not know which recruitment plan he will activate until after this weekend.
He said: “We know what we want to do in the transfer market and I have the budget to put those plans into action.
“I know the supporters are sometimes frustrated we haven’t gone out there and signed a big name, but I’m not only interested in names.
“I want the right players who are going to improve the side, who will buy into what we are trying to do here. I will never sign anyone because of who they are, it’s what they can achieve that matters.
“We have a World Cup tournament coming up and that is the best shop window you can hope for. There is money there, but we will not waste it. I’m happy to keep my powder dry if I have to.”