OPINION: This latest instalment in the tale of the roaming Ma'a Nonu should be of immense frustration, and some embarrassment, to the New Zealand Rugby Union. If it isn't, something is wrong.
Apart from the inimitable Sonny Bill Williams (and we'll get to him later), rarely has the NZRU allowed a player to lead it around by the nose so often.
When Mark Hammett kicked Nonu out of the Hurricanes after the 2011 campaign the All Blacks second five-eighth transferred to the Blues.
The arrival of John Kirwan, who replaced Pat Lam ahead of the 2013 season, coincided with the new coach shaking hands with Nonu as they agreed a deal had been done. No contract was presented. Nonu signed with the Highlanders.
If you want to see Kirwan's reaction to that snub look to the footage the Blues later posted on YouTube.
Nonu lasted a season at the Highlanders.
He hoped to return to the Hurricanes, understandable because his family lives in Wellington but Hammett was having none of that.
Suddenly, Nonu was without a Super Rugby home. No drama. The NZRU was on his side.
But then there was the trifling issue of those bright spots on the horizon - the bridges he had already burnt.
Nonu had already told Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph he wasn't interested in a contract renewal so moving to Dunedin was out. Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder shook his head and Chiefs boss Dave Rennie held up his hands before pointing to his existing stocks of midfielders.
Speculation the un-loved Nonu would sign with a French club mounted. Then all eyes swivelled to the Blues.
An SOS was sent out to Kirwan who eventually converted a two-fingered salute into a handshake and agreed to sign Nonu on a two-year deal. You would assume Kirwan ensured the paperwork was inked before reaching across the coffee table to trade skin.
Last week it was revealed Nonu had an out-clause in his contract. There would be no second year at the Blues. New Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd wants Nonu back.
It's an easy fit. Nonu's family live in the capital and Boyd is desperately short of midfielders. Nonu wins again. And in doing so he has trampled over Kirwan's goodwill and manipulated the NZRU.
This case follows the NZRU and the Crusaders also being exposed by Zac Guildford, the troubled All Blacks wing who couldn't find an overseas club late last year.
The Crusaders made a dreadful mistake in re-signing Guildford, who failed to keep his pledge to steer clear of alcohol. Blackadder refused to select him and Guildford's contract was recently terminated to allow him to join French giant Clermont earlier than originally scheduled.
Both the Crusaders and NZRU should have been tougher from the outset. Guildford's earlier indiscretions couldn't hide that he was a ticking time bomb.
Which brings us to Williams.
Revelations he could be selected for the All Blacks' end-of-season tour, providing he makes at least one appearance for Counties-Manukau, shouldn't sit well with the NZRU.
Williams, who is playing for the Roosters in the NRL, may be selected on the premise that an All Blacks tour would allow him to be exposed to their coaching, conditioning and medical staff before next year's World Cup.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has already warned this is a possibility only, that it needs careful consideration. Too right it does.
Brand SBW will have plenty of time to make the transition back to rugby with Counties-Manukau, the Chiefs and the All Blacks during next year's Rugby Championship.
Nonu already appears to be getting what he wants. There's no need to repeat this with SBW. Surely he can wait.
- The Press
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