After losing the services of three former international players between them during the past week, Western Australia and Victoria appear to be facing a fight to retain several more of their best cricketers.

Simon Katich provided one of the biggest recruiting stories of the past decade at interstate level when he agreed late last week to switch from Western Australia to New South Wales. But it may not be the end of the bad news for the Warriors with at least three other players still being targeted by other states.

Matthew Nicholson put an end to speculation about his immediate future by confirming yesterday that he has rejected approaches from New South Wales and South Australia and is remaining in Perth. The Warriors are likely to receive further good news when another high-profile fast bowler signs on with the team in forthcoming days, and there is also growing speculation that Damien Fleming may ultimately be headed west.

But opening batsman Mike Hussey's name continues to be linked with a possible shift to South Australia, and middle order batsmen Murray Goodwin and Rob Baker have also been eyed closely by other states.

The Western Australian Cricket Association moved yesterday to quash rumours about possible departures by Hussey and Goodwin, but their names are not yet rated as certainties to be among the list of 2002-03 Warriors' contract holders when it is released early next month.

The Warriors also appear to have been thwarted in their bid to lure Queensland seam bowler Adam Dale away from Brisbane.

Victoria's desire to cultivate a more youthful playing list meanwhile looks to be under threat on at least two fronts.

The Victorians' shock decision this week to prune Fleming and Colin Miller from their playing list will deprive the Bushrangers of two of their best-credentialled cricketers of the last decade. But at least two other talented members of the state's playing staff - an all-rounder and a pace bowler who were each contracted last summer - have already sparked interest elsewhere.

In a rare piece of good news for the embattled Vics, speculation earlier this year that captain Matthew Elliott may have been keen to move elsewhere appears to have been off the mark.

South Australia also remains a key player as one of the most flurried off-seasons in interstate history continues.

Hussey and Nicholson are believed to have headed a shortlist of potential recruits along with Zimbabwean star Andy Flower, while experienced fast bowlers Paul Wilson and Brett Swain and young opening batsman Luke Williams are all considering the possibility of a move interstate.

Complementing Tasmanian interest in Baker, the names of Swain and Williams have each come up at a series of selection meetings in Hobart this week.

New South Wales' cards are being played closer to the chest, with few clues available as to how the Blues' list may be rounded out. Their selectors are, however, unlikely to make any more major additions to an already imposing batting line-up. Attention may instead need to be devoted to encouraging promising strokeplayers like Phil Jaques from pursuing greater opportunities elsewhere.

Queensland's position appears the most settled of all the states, with only changes at the margins expected when its contract list is unveiled. The likelihood that Dale will stay, and Ashley Noffke's recent loss of his ACB contract, have meant that there is less room to work in adding extra fast bowlers to the Bulls' core group of players. Former Test paceman Scott Muller may be among the relatively small number of casualties.

Each of the six state associations has until 7 June to finalise its initial list of between 14 and 20 contract holders for the 2002-03 season.