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Perth team starting to take shape

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Former Australia winger Ben Tune is expected to announce he will join the West Australian Super 14 team by the end of the week.

Along with second-row forward Nathan Sharpe, hooker Brendan Cannon and halfback Matt Henjak, Tune is one of the main targets of the Perth-based side.

Tune said he wanted to make a decision on his future before leaving for South Africa with Queensland Reds on Saturday.

“I’ll be making a decision fairly soon,” Tune said in Brisbane yesterday. “I’m going away with the guys to South Africa on Saturday. I want to make it before I go.”

While Tune said he was yet to make up his mind, indications are strong that he will become coach John Mitchell’s first big-name signing.

Making a comeback this year after missing the 2004 series with knee injuries, Tune has been unable to secure a regular place in the Reds’ 22-man squad.

He has played just 15 minutes off the bench in the Reds’ loss to the Blues in Auckland in round two.

“It is going to come down to whether I want to hang around and wait for an opportunity in Queensland or go to Perth and have an opportunity straight away,” Tune said. “I’m 29 years old. I don’t have time on my side.”

Sharpe remains Western Australia’s top priority because he would provide leadership, quality performance and drawing power for other players.

It is understood quite a few players in New South Wales and Queensland are waiting to see what Sharpe does before deciding whether to accept offers from Western Australia.

“Sharpie has a fair bit of pull,” Tune said. “If Perth can sign one or two big-name players, it will reassure guys who are considering it.

“It could have a snowball effect. Sharpie is not influencing my decision, but he might influence the decision of some of the other guys.”

The West Australians give themselves a 50-50 chance of securing Sharpe.

“It is a tough decision for Sharpe,” WA chairman Geoff Stooke said. “We think it is 50-50.

“Sharpe is a guy who is loyal to the Reds, but we will look after him long-term and meet his current aspirations.”

The West Australians are certainly banking on Sharpe being able to attract other players to Perth.

“Any top quality player … a run-on Wallaby … would have some drawing power,” Stooke said. “Sharpe would be like a mini magnet. He could only assist us.”

The West Australians are talking to a long list of Super 12 players such as Al Baxter, Lachlan Mackay, Cameron Shepherd, Peter Hewat, Gareth Hardy, Rocky Elsom, Hugh McMeniman, Greg Holmes, Tai McIsaac, Luke Doherty, Rudi Vedelago and Junior Pelesasa.

“We are hoping to put a couple to bed this week,” Stooke said. “It is all progressing.”

The West Australians also have their eyes on several prospects in the Australian under-19 squad, which left for Durban yesterday for the World Cup.

Five-eighth Scott Daruda, who recently sat on the bench for Queensland, prop Pekahou Cowan, number eight Leroy Houston and the Faingaa twins, Anthony and Saia, are targets.

The West Australians have missed out on former Queensland five-eighth Shane Drahm, who has left English club Northampton Saints to join Worcester Warriors next season.

“Part of our mandate is to grow the Wallaby base and that (Australian under-19s) is a group we’ll be paying attention to,” Stooke said.

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