Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor is preparing to make one of the biggest coaching gambles in recent memory as the club gets set to jettison nearly 1000 games and 65 years of top-grade experience.
Pat Richards and Keith Galloway said their goodbyes to Tigers fans at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday afternoon, ahead of their moves to England to play Super League, while skipper Robbie Farah has been asked to leave.
Utility Dene Halatau has not been offered a new contract while Chris Lawrence is rumoured to be on the outer despite having a year to run on his deal.
The five have a combined 961 games of NRL experience, spending a total of 65 years in top grade, and will leave the club with a massive hole in their roster.
As it stands, prop Aaron Woods will be the club’s most-experienced player next year, and the only Tiger with more than 100 games under his belt.
Richards was part of the Tigers’ premiership-winning side of 2005 before an eight-year stint with Wigan in England.
He returned to the NRL in 2013, becoming a fan favourite with his massive boot.
He said he would have not made the same call as Taylor to punt Farah but understood the club’s position.
“Any team needs Robbie Farah,” Richards said after the Tigers’ 50-16 thumping of the Warriors on Sunday at Campbelltown.
“It’s not my call – it’s the club’s call.
“Everyone saw today what sort of quality player he is.
“Robbie can worry about his performances and he’s been turning up to training since this has happened. It shows the true character of the bloke. He’s 100 per cent committed to the cause.”
Leeds-bound Galloway said he was sad to be leaving but believed the club was in good stead with the likes of Luke Brooks, James Tedesco and Mitchell Moses coming through.
“I think there’s such a good group of young players here and I think, in the next few years, they’re really going to be a strong team,” Galloway said.
“I think there’s good times ahead for the fans.
“We’re building for something and, obviously, I’m moving on but I know the club is in good hands.”