Big Waerea-Hargreaves could be lost to league

DAVID LONG IN LONDON
Last updated 05:02 24/11/2013
Danny Buderus
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HARD CONTACT: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, left, has had a fine year for the Roosters.

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Kiwis prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, arguably the best front-rower in the world, has revealed he could return to rugby union when his contract runs out with the Roosters in two years' time.

The 15-man code was Waerea-Hargreaves' first love and, despite his success in the NRL and at international level for New Zealand, he remains passionate about the sport.

Waerea-Hargreaves emigrated to Australia from Rotorua 10 years ago and was such a rising star he played for Australia at the 2007 under-19s World Championship alongside Peter Betham, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Rob Simmons and James Hanson, who all went on to play for the Wallabies.

He was on the books at the Waratahs, but foolishly the Sydney-based Super Rugby side only offered him a two-year part-time contract and he opted instead to link up with the Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL.

And while he has made every post a winner in league, he says he wouldn't rule out a return to rugby in the coming years.

"I always thought I was a pretty good rugby player back in the day," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"As you get older you keep your options open and all of that sort of stuff.

"I guess you play every year as it comes, I've still got a couple more years on my contract as it is and you never know what happens after it."

Sonny Bill Williams has successfully switched between both codes, Benji Marshall is about to try his hand at rugby and rising Kiwis star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, an Auckland schoolboy rugby star, has spoken about returning to his union roots at some stage. Players these days no longer feel there should be a rivalry between the codes and openly admit to enjoying watching and playing both.

"I watch every All Blacks game and I watch the Wallabies," Waerea-Hargreaves said. "I've played a lot of rugby back in the day with a lot of the current Wallabies.

"I still love the game and enjoy watching it." The Waratahs made an attempt to lure Waerea-Hargreaves back to rugby in 2012, but the sticking point was believed to have been over how much the Australian Rugby Union was willing to top up his contract.

However, if he did make the move back to rugby, it would be a black jersey, rather than a green and gold one, in his sights.

"I am currently sitting in a black jumper," he said in the Kiwis' hotel in London. "So I can't be talking about playing for the Wallabies. I believe I bleed black."

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Waerea-Hargreaves, who is still clinging on to his Kiwi accent, says being in camp with the Kiwis for the past six weeks has helped him reconnect with his New Zealand upbringing and feel proud of his heritage.

"When you're in camp and you see some of the boys talking Maori to each other, it definitely reconnects you with your roots from back home," he said. "It is just a hell of an experience when you're in camp.

"Everyone wants to be here and there are only a certain few that make it. So it definitely does remind me of back home."

While Waerea-Hargreaves has created a life for himself in Australia, he still refers to New Zealand as home, and feels he can keep that connection strong while at the Roosters.

"I think I'm fortunate at the Roosters because us Kiwi boys have taken over there," He said, joking.

"There's around 60-70 per cent Polynesian or New Zealand Maori at the club.

"As I like to tell our head coach (Trent Robinson), we're taking over and soon our head coach will be a New Zealander, or I might be captain and coach."

- Sunday News

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