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Cheika trying to fix Waratahs hangover
By Ben Horne
15:23 AEST Thu Jan 31 2013

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika says he's inherited a hangover from last year's disastrous Super Rugby season that's resulting in big name stars looking elsewhere.

With Wallabies weapons Berrick Barnes and Sitaleki Timani set to move overseas at the end of the season and a number of other Waratahs coming off contract, Cheika faces the prospect of a mass exodus before a ball is even kicked in 2013.

Last year under Michael Foley the Waratahs won just four matches in an ugly season on and off the field.

Since taking over the reins, Cheika has realised he must enforce an urgent culture change to prevent top talent walking out the door.

It might be too late to stop the likes of Barnes and Timani signing elsewhere, but the Waratahs' new boss has declared the loss of key players won't ruin the Waratahs' season.

"Obviously there's a bit of a hangover from what's happened over the past couple of years and guys naturally would think about leaving. Thus all this type of news is happening early," Cheika said on Thursday ahead of the Waratahs' first trial against Melbourne in Hobart on Saturday.

"Players, off the back of what was a pretty poor year for them last year, have obviously been having a look around seeing what's out there.

"But what's definitely not going to happen is it's not going to rock our boat.

"Every player is totally committed to our work ethic and our attitude and if a player does decide to leave then he's going to miss out on that isn't he?"

Cheika says, to the best of his knowledge, star playmaker Barnes hasn't signed with Japanese rugby and lock enforcer Timani isn't completely locked into a move to France - and he will continue trying to convince them to stay.

However, reports suggest the pair have all but agreed to leave at season's end.

Other off-contract stars like Wycliff Palu are known to also be eyeing off their options abroad.

Cheika says he is dealing with a reality of professional sport and there was nothing he could do about what's happened at the Waratahs in the past.

However, he's determined to change the short-sighted attitude of the organisation and ensure NSW are always looking to the future.

"I've spoken to the team about it and said 'Listen. What everyone does (contract wise) is up to everyone. What we're about as a team is creating a great environment this year so that we leave something for next year's team,'" he said.

"At NSW it's time someone started looking after the place long term as well as short term.

"It doesn't mean you ignore the short term. No one wants to win games more than me.

"But I'm starting to look at the team in five years time when I'm doing my recruitment.

"I'm creating an environment that people want to be in. Create the environment and you'll end up with the people that want to be in it."