By WYNNE GRAY
Two former All Blacks, Dylan Mika and Norm Berryman, are the latest stars set to join the overseas rugby exodus.
A week after Auckland team-mate Adrian Cashmore told the Herald he was heading to a three-year contract with Toyota next season, Mika yesterday admitted he was preparing to leave New Zealand.
He is a reserve for Auckland tomorrow against Northland, who seem sure to shed 27-year-old Berryman after the NPC when he will link up with the Castres Olympique club in France.
Berryman's departure depends on a final release from the NZRFU, but unless Northland make the playoffs, the wing only has a few more provincial games left in New Zealand before joining Frank Bunce's former club.
Mika has solid offers from Japan and France to consider and his conversation yesterday was more about making a choice than refusing the deals.
"I have come to the crossroads in my career, it is time to weigh up my options," he said.
Mika's contract with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union ends this year and after some back injuries which have disrupted his recent career, he is looking for a reduced rugby workload.
"I have had five years of Super 12 and it is time to move on from that. I have had enough disappointments at this level of rugby in New Zealand," the 28-year-old said.
"When you miss one or two games of footy you can be behind the eight-ball so quickly.
"I have had a year to think about my future and how injuries can take you out of this game I love.
"It can be very disheartening."
As Mika spoke about his move, former Canterbury loose forward Angus Gardiner offered some warnings for those New Zealanders considering a career shift to Europe.
"The days of streets paved with gold are gone," said Gardiner, who plays for the Bath club.
"That's even more so now that clubs are making harsher business decisions.
"They are running clubs to break even and the wages bill is coming down."
Gardiner suggested that the NZRFU had to be more assertive in retaining top players in New Zealand.
"They can't afford to lose players such as Carlos Spencer, Andrew Blowers etc.
"They are world-class players and New Zealand needs them to keep the competition strong. The New Zealand union are now catching sight of that."
Asked what would change his thoughts about leaving New Zealand, Mika struggled to come up with a strong answer.
But the loose forward, who has passed 50 games for Auckland and played seven All Black tests, has a few targets before his anticipated departure.
"It would be great to finish with the Ranfurly Shield and the NPC," he said.
"New Zealand and Auckland rugby is in good hands. I have enjoyed my time here and while I am still weighing up my options, you sort of know when your time is up.
"You do get a lot of wear and tear. It is a long season in New Zealand and the way the game is played now it is even more confrontational."