Piri Weepu has opened up on his dramatic departure from the Hurricanes and falling out with coach Mark Hammett, saying he still remains shocked by how quickly it unravelled.
The All Blacks halfback reveals his side of the messy affair that saw him sign for the Blues in his biography Piri: Straight Up, which is released this week.
"It's always difficult when there's a change of coach, there's no getting away from it. Every coach has his own style, which may or may not work in with what's gone on before him, and at the beginning of 2011 Mark was undoubtedly still trying to find his feet,” Weepu says in the chapter: Storm Clouds Over The Hurricanes.
"I had a couple of meetings with him pre-season and although on the surface things seemed okay, I came away with the distinct impression my days at the Hurricanes were numbered.
"I know that all coaches are different but as a player I've never had any problems with fitting into how they want the game to be played. I've always had the talent, always had the flair, and week in, week out - year in, year out come to that - I had been able to front up and do the job that was required of me.
"To this day, I am surprised at how quickly things changed, how almost before I knew it I felt like an outsider in a team that only months earlier I'd felt an integral part of. It was an odd and uneasy feeling."
Hampered by rehabbing a broken leg and being unable to push his cause on the field, Weepu became frustrated with his slow recovery and admits he didn't help his cause.
"I was working hard, but having to go through the same sort of routines time and time again really got to me, especially if I was having a bad day. And I'll admit to having a few early in the year. Almost everyone who knows me realises my boredom threshold is way lower than average. Instead of keeping my mouth shut and just getting on with it, I had a bit of a moan about having to do the same old routines, and I did it in front of my team-mates.
“It didn't take me long to see the error of my ways and I apologised to them. We sorted it out, but I probably hadn't helped my cause with management.”
Desperate to sort out his contractual future early, Weepu found a road block there.
“I was told the franchise didn't want to make a judgement call on whether they wanted to re-sign some players until the end of the season. When you play rugby professionally that's like receiving the kiss of death. Rugby's your job and if you haven't got a team to play for you're out of work. Simple as that.
"Not knowing what your fate is going to be until the end of the season isn't in my view dealing with the situation in a professional manner. By then it's too late to sign on elsewhere and even if you're fortunate enough to find a team you're probably looking at taking a considerable drop in pay.”
With Hurricanes' stalwarts and close friends Andrew Hore and Ma'a Nonu shown the door and other players leaving by their own accord, Weepu's management began looking elsewhere. By the time the Hurricanes made an offer - which Weepu signed but didn't send back - Weepu was already thinking of joining Nonu at the Blues. They made him a suitable offer and despite a “substantially improved” counter-offer from the Canes, he decided to head north.
“Despite the fact my family, in particular my daughters, were Wellington-based, I made the hardest rugby decision of my life. “The fact Ma'a had signed with the Blues certainly influenced my decision, but there were other factors. I guess I needed a break from home.
"My relationship with Candice was over and in order for both of us to move forward my moving out of Wellington seemed like a good step.”
Reproduced from Piri: Straight Up by Piri Weepu with Heather Kidd, with permission from Hachette NZ Ltd, published by Hodder Moa.
- Sunday Star Times