All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty spurns French club to stay loyal

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen should be pleased that midfielder Ryan Crotty (right) has opted to re-sign with NZ Rugby ...
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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen should be pleased that midfielder Ryan Crotty (right) has opted to re-sign with NZ Rugby through to the end of next year.

One of Ryan Crotty's mates urged him to grab the money and leave for France.

Another chirped to the contrary, telling him to stop mucking around and put his mark on a contract with NZ Rugby so he could add to his 27 test caps with the All Blacks and keep representing the Crusaders.

No wonder Crotty said it was one of the most difficult decisions of his career. Eventually he put an end to all the chatter when he re-committed to his New Zealand employers for one more year.

Given NZ Rugby remains steadfast in its refusal to pick players if they leave Aotearoa, therefore protecting its domestic teams from being decimated by wealthy rugby oligarchs north of the equator, Crotty had a range of conversations with his partner, family, friends and the All Blacks management about which career path to choose.

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"My friends were really good," Crotty said. "One said 'you would be silly not to go' and another one said 'you would be silly to leave'. It is funny when you get your mate's opinions.

"But ultimately, when I figured out I was trying to convince my mate that I needed to stay, the lightbulb went off that I had made my mind up (to stay).

"It was cool to reach that decision, and I am grateful NZ Rugby worked with me through it."

The 28-year-old believes a one-year deal is the most sensible option. In recent seasons he has preferred short-term contracts, using them as a mechanism to put heat on himself to perform on the field.

"There were good offers from overseas, but I just have got to trust that if I keep playing at the top level that those offers will still be there when it is time for me to go. But my time just wasn't now."

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What it also does is allow Crotty to re-assess where his career is at before the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

If keen to hunt for offshore employment at the end of next season, he could get an early jump before the rich clubs splurge their loot ahead of their traditional pre-World Cup spending sprees.

The fact a number of other midfielders have already agreed terms for longer periods with NZ Rugby will probably be taken into account.

Anton Lienert-Brown will remain here until 2020, Sonny Bill Williams and Ngani Laumape are tied down until 2019 and Charlie Ngatai is locked in until the end of next year.

Malakai Fekitoa has yet to re-sign, and has been linked with French club Toulon.

Unlike All Blacks and Crusaders team-mate Israel Dagg, who seriously considered playing in Japan before deciding to stay, Crotty looked to Europe.

"For me, it was more in France. But the passion to play here was what kept (me here) to re-sign."

Being ranked as the top centre in New Zealand ahead of the first test against the British and Irish Lions, where he was paired with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield, must have been encouraging.

To pull a hamstring in the first test, won 30-15 by the All Blacks at Eden Park, was a blow; it forced Crotty out of the series and he also had to miss the Crusaders' 31-22 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington last weekend.

He is confident he will available to play the Highlanders in the quarterfinal in Christchurch on Saturday night. If fit he will start at second five-eighth, meaning David Havili will probably move back to fullback to allow Israel Dagg to revert to the right wing.

"The Highlanders are one of the best sides in the comp," Crotty said. "For us it is a final. If you don't win, there is no next week."

 - Stuff

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