NEWCASTLE Falcons head coach Alan Tait has revealed that star fly-half Jimmy Gopperth is keen to extend his stay at Kingston Park.
The 28-year-old has won the Aviva Premiership’s Golden Boot in both of his seasons as a Falcons player, despite his side struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Gopperth’s three-year contract comes to an end in June and the prolific Kiwi will not be short of offers, but Tait has revealed that the man himself has already signalled his desire to remain a Falcons player.
The head coach told The Journal: “Jimmy has stated his intention to us that he wants to stay here beyond the end of this season, and we have already had talks with him and his agent. He has said that he wants to do his utmost to keep us in the Premiership, and to re-sign to stay up here.”
While Tait stopped short of confirming that Gopperth’s signature relies on Newcastle retaining their top-flight status, the Scot did say: “It might be a factor, but we are very keen for him to stay and he seems to feel the same way.
“That to us is massive, but it is not totally surprising because the players can see what is going on at the club right now. Semore Kurdi as our new owner is very subtle about the improvements he has made, and all of them have been driven with the players in mind.
“He has put in a new medical facility among a load of other things, and the players are not daft. They can see the way we are building, even considering our current league position, and they all just want the results to pull us up.”
With January traditionally a nervous time for Newcastle as their out-of-contract stars are able to be approached by potential suitors for the first time, the list of names up for grabs this summer includes key players like Ally Hogg, Euan Murray, Tim Swinson, Andrew Van der Heijden and Rob Vickers as well as a sprinkling of fringe talent.
Tait said: “Luckily this year we have only got 10 or so lads who are out of contract instead of the usual 18 or 20, and we will see what is happening with those guys sooner rather than later.
“I have got their agents knocking on my door wanting us to re-sign them, and we have tried to focus on getting the Exeter game out of the way this weekend before really cracking on with it during the month of cup matches. On top of that there are players at other clubs who we want to bring in to strengthen us, which is another factor to consider.”
The Falcons have already confirmed new extensions for Kiwi brothers Michael and Richard Mayhew for the next two seasons, as well as signing England Schools prop Scott Wilson. But admitting that continued uncertainty over their top-flight status is hampering rather than helping the effort to lock down further deals, Tait said: “There is no hidden agenda in terms of players wanting to know what league we are in before they commit to us. The situation is obvious.
“The down-side is that it drags the whole thing out, and some guys will not sign until Premiership safety is sorted out. It went on until May last season, and it could well do the same again depending on what happens.
“It is a hurdle we need to get over, but the feeling among the squad is positive. There is a sense that guys want to stay here and be part of what we are building. Players are wanting to stay now, and I have a queue of them knocking on my door wanting to sign new contracts. It is great news that we have turned ourselves round into a place where people want to stay, and they can see the vision we have.”