Jackson Willison latest Chief to pay a price

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2012

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Waikato could be down to half a dozen or fewer players in next year's Chiefs Super Rugby squad despite the franchise being based in Hamilton.

A side-effect of what is becoming a miserable season for the Mooloos after two consecutive years in the premiership final is the continued dwindling number of Waikato players in Chiefs colours.

After having 15 players in the 2011 squad, Waikato had only nine in this year's winning squad and it seems at least three of those will not be part of the franchise next year.

That includes midfield back Jackson Willison, who strangely has been delisted just two months after being re-signed for two more years.

Willison, 24, confirmed the delisting after yesterday's defeat, saying he was disappointed but wanted to concentrate on his Waikato season and helping the province avoid relegation to the championship division.

"Basically it means they've put my name forward for the draft," Willison said.

"So I'm available for other franchises but I'm not too sure of the situation at the moment.

"It's come as a bit of a surprise but it's happening all around the franchises at the moment.

"There are a few names getting delisted and I'm just one of them, but I've got more immediate things to worry about and I think this Waikato team needs my attention more."

It would seem Willison's delisting has come from a change of mind by the Chiefs coaches following the form of Counties-Manukau midfielder Bundee Aki in the NPC championship division-leading Steelers team.

Aki, who was in the Chiefs' wider training group, has apparently been signed to a full contract for next season and with Charlie Ngatai having already replaced Sonny Bill Williams there are no further midfield spots available for Willison.

Both No 8 Alex Bradley, who turns 31 at the end of this month, and 21-year-old wing Declan O'Donnell have confirmed to the Waikato Times they have not been re-signed after picking up one-season contracts for this year.

Waikato captain Bradley, who is partners in a Matamata plumbing business, knows he has that to fall back on, unlike others in the same position.

"I'm a day by day man," Bradley said. "If the opportunity comes who knows, but I'm enjoying rugby at the moment.

"I'm enjoying getting on the field and having plenty of game time and while I'm enjoying it I'll keep playing it."

But he confirmed he had received no offers of contract renewal from the Chiefs.

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- Waikato Times

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