Nic White is 32 and played the best part of 300 professional matches, but the favourite to wear the famous No.9 jersey at this year’s World Cup says despite his wealth of experience he struggled with the pressures associated with his drawn out contract extension with Rugby Australia.
In an open and honest interview, White said he felt his performances this year had been affected by his lingering contract situation that came to a head on Tuesday.
The announcement came after months of negotiations, with White, one of the Wallabies’ senior players and a banker in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad, squeezed out due to salary cap pressures at the Brumbies and Rugby Australia top-ups to other younger halfbacks across the country.
While White always wanted to stay at the Brumbies, and indeed was offered a contract to stay, he would have had to take a financial haircut to do so.
White, who is by no means washed up and has taken confidence that he’s got years in front of him by watching Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth play well into their 30s, said the situation played on him.
“It is tough, and I’ve said to a few people, it probably affected me more than I would have liked,” White told reporters on Tuesday.
“I thought being at my age and being through it a few times, I would have handled it may be a little better.
“But having it linger over my head for quite some time, I probably feel like it has affected my footy a little bit, and that’s why I guess I felt like now’s a good time to kind of rip the band-aid off it and give myself a chance to throw everything at it this year.
“Every little moment throughout the week, throughout games, you’re wondering if that’s going to have an effect on your future, and to have it locked away I’m very thankful to Perth (for) giving me the opportunity to lock that away and more so do it here in Australia because I feel like I’ve still got plenty to offer Australian rugby.”
White’s comments speak volumes of the turbulent situation sports stars face regularly, particularly when age becomes a factor.
The Wallabies veteran, who has 59 Tests and made his Test debut in 2014, has often tried to convince the bean counters and general managers that experience matters.
“It was no light decision,” he said. “It’s been a rough couple of weeks, couple of months coming to terms with it.
“I feel like I’ve still got plenty on the field to offer but I’ve got a lot off the field to offer as well.
“There’s a young group over there in Perth, I think the average age is about 24. It’s a way for me to give back to Australian rugby, which I’m so passionate about.”
He added that Jones was a useful sounding board.
“I spoke to him a little bit,” he said.
“Yeah, he’s obviously happy I’m sticking around. I said to him I felt like I still had plenty to offer. He agreed.”
White is crucial to the Brumbies’ hopes of winning their first fully-fledged Super Rugby competition since 2004.
The halfback wore the No.9 jersey 10 years ago when the Brumbies last played in the final, where they went down narrowly to Dave Rennie’s Chiefs in Waikato.
White is one of two survivors from that side along with Jesse Mogg, which featured George Smith as cover for David Pocock, Matt To’omua and Christian Lealiifano.
The fact the match was played across the ditch was certainly crucial in their 27-22 defeat.
As fate should have it, 2023 could be a repeat to the 2013 final with the Brumbies second to the Chiefs.
It means their month ahead, including their clash with the Chiefs in Canberra on May 27, looms as crucial in their bid to go deep in the Super Rugby competition and potentially host a final.
But White said the Brumbies couldn’t afford to look past Sunday’s match-up with the Highlanders if they wanted to give the competition a genuine shake.
“Yeah, 10 years ago. The boys are having a reunion when they come to town in a couple of weeks,” White said.
“It is really important. But the most important thing is and what I guess what we’re all talking about and trying to pass on is that the most important thing is this weekend.
“You get that right, we got it right on the weekend (against the Rebels), she was close, closer than I would have liked, but we look to putting out a good performance against the Highlanders and then hopefully, with everything going well, we put ourselves in a good place to have a crack at it.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s one week at a time and it’s just improving our performance, which there’s plenty to improve on.”