What is going on with Luke Fitzgerald's contract?
With all the excitement over landing another Heineken Cup, the future of injured Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald has gotten a bit lost. Here’s the latest.
In 17 days Luke Fitzgerald will cease to be a Leinster player. The 24-year olds contract with the province runs out on June 30 and after that he is a free man, admittedly a free man without a job.
The saga of Fitzgerald’s contract has been dragging on for months. In March, the former Lion hinted that he may fancy a crack at playing rugby abroad, setting off wild speculation about his future.
By the end of March, it was widely reported that contract talks between the player and the IRFU had hit an impasse. It was said that the lads in Lansdowne Road wanted Fitzgerald to take a pay cut and that this was the sticking point in negotiations.
But the end of April soothing words were coming from the province that things would be sorted out and that the IRFU were very anxious to tie Fitzgerald down.
Then Fitzgerald was hit with a recurrence of his neck injury, facing six months on the sidelines and everyone got caught up as Leinster won the Heineken and were pipped for the PRO12 crown.
The issue came up again yesterday, though, when Leinster chief executive Michael Dawson was asked at the Heineken Cup draw about the winger’s future.
Dawson confirmed to Sports News Ireland that the province had taken over negotiations directly with Fitzgerald.
“Luke has been with us since he was 18," said Dawson. "I think he is 24 now and we hope that he will be with us for a lot longer. His contract is up on the 30th of June. I understand his operation went very well. He has a 26-32 week recovery period and we have a duty of care to make sure that it goes right and hopefully he will be working with us to get him back playing for Leinster and Ireland in early 2013.
“Luke has been and will be a fantastic player for Leinster. He is very popular with the fans. We want Luke in our squad. We have had talks with his agent Fintan Drury and I’d be disappointed if things are not worked out sooner rather than later.”
It is still unthinkable that Fitzgerald would be lining out in any other colours bar Leinster blue in the near future but the longer this goes on the more realistic the prospect that a foreign club will swoop in. The IRFU has a tremendous record for keeping Irish talent in Ireland and the system here is much more forgiving to players than the Top 14 or Aviva Premiership.
For a player with a history of injury, like Fitzgerald, there can be no better place to play than at home. We would be happier if it was all sorted by now but there is still time for this to be resolved. Dawson’s latest comments don’t really add anything new but the positive talk by the Leinster head honcho has to be a good thing.
It would surely be best for both parties if he stayed with the European champions. Here's hoping that's the final outcome.