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Latham 'not bitter' despite ARU offer

By Laine Clark 18/12/2007 07:26:55 PM Comments (0)

Departing Wallabies fullback Chris Latham said a "pretty disappointing" Australian Rugby Union offer led to the agonising decision to head for Europe next year.

But the Queensland Reds match-winner said he was "not bitter" after confirming he would cut ties with Australian rugby and take up a three-year deal with English club Worcester in 2008.

Despite his age of 32, Latham believes his best years are ahead of him.

But the ARU offered Latham a two-year contract extension loaded with incentives that would only kick in with each Test played.

After two months of soul searching, the 2006 John Eales Medallist made the painful decision to leave Australia next year.

It ensures the 2008 Super 14 season - his 11th with the Reds - will be his last.

And Latham is set to make his Wallabies swansong in the Tri-Nations finale in September, fittingly in his home city of Brisbane.

"No, I'm not bitter. No, I'm not angry. No, I'm not disappointed," Latham said.

"It now gives me an opportunity and I am excited about it. To be honest, I just want to move on and get on with it."

But the Wallabies' most-capped fullback clearly had a difference of opinion with the ARU.

"Had I been offered the same amount of money that I was on this year for the next few years (by the ARU), I would have definitely stayed," said Latham, a veteran of 78 Tests.

"So it has been pretty disappointing in that instance that I couldn't come to that agreement here.

"The (ARU) offer was incentive-based and I really didn't think given my position that I needed incentives to play rugby - I never have."

He may be at an age when many professional rugby players start slowing down but Latham said he was hardly past his prime.

"They (ARU) obviously thought that I wouldn't be able to carry through for too many more years, and that's the line that they've taken," he said.

"I firmly believe that I am yet to play my best, most consistent rugby yet.

"It's quite easy to label people at 32 and say they are getting old but I think in rugby years I am very young."

He passionately denied that the UK move was about money.

"That's not the reason why I am quitting here. It's just a fact of life that it is time to move on, time to refocus, get some new fresh goals," he said.

"I am happy with the decision. I think it is the right time now given the circumstances - it gives me more time to spend with my young family."

Latham said he was focused on a fitting farewell with the Reds.

"I'll be making sure I have achieved pretty much everything I've ever wanted to achieve in rugby - one of those major goals is win a Super 14," he said.

Easier said than done.

Queensland collected their first wooden spoon in 2007 after Latham missed the Super 14 season due to a knee injury.

"I've said for a long time I want to leave Queensland in the same state as it was when I first came in (in 1998)," Latham said.

"It's no secret we are not as good as we once were but we have made exceptional advancements in the appointments that have been made - I've no doubt we can give it a shake."

Latham also vowed to make the most of his time under newly-appointed Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.

"The timing of it (Deans' appointment) all makes you think it would be nice to have a few years under him, but I get the opportunity of one more season and I will make the most of it," he said.

An emotional Latham told his Reds teammates in Brisbane on Tuesday morning but was clearly relieved that his future had been decided.

"I haven't mentally been there (since returning from the World Cup," he laughed.

"I'm glad I didn't do it through the season because I wouldn't have got through it - I'm now going to have a good Christmas."

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