Bidwell: Promises from new Cane Ma'a Nonu

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014

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OPINION: Now we get some indication of the environment Mark Hammett was operating in.

No sooner had the impediment been shunted out the side door, than the front one was opened wide to welcome the return of prodigal son Ma'a Nonu.

Where was Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni on Tuesday when coach Hammett said his public goodbyes?

No matter how disingenuous, some statement of thanks from the CEO to the departing coach would've been appropriate.

Instead Te Puni was front and centre yesterday to herald the re-signing of man whose sacking in 2011 cast a constant pall over Hammett's tenure. Interesting.

Hammett might not be God's gift to coaching, but he's an admirable man. People tend to get pretty negotiable about their standards once they're met with opposition, but Hammett stuck steadfastly to his.

He could've been wrong the whole way through, but at least he stood for something.

Where Nonu's concerned, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the the Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby Union stand for little other than expediency and the endorsement of truculence.

Hurricanes, Blues, Highlanders, Blues and now Hurricanes again, reads Nonu's honour roll. Five franchises in as many years is a few.

It must've come as quite a shock to Nonu when, in 2011, Hammett told him him he wasn't wanted. Who, other than Nonu's folks, do you imagine have been game enough to say 'no' to him over the years?

It's all smacked of a kid that won't eat their dinner, but still demands pudding. Being able to come back to the Hurricanes, with a year to run on his Blues contract, amounts to a second helping of the sweet stuff with sprinkles on top.

What Nonu does or doesn't do in the All Blacks' camp is irrelevant - this is franchise contracting we're talking about.

So why would the Hurricanes even entertain signing a guy said to be one of the architects of a regime they've just spent four years trying to dismantle?

The answer is that Nonu has changed, he's grown up, he wants to be a giver not a taker.

His days of being too staunch to talk to team-mates he regards as beneath him are over and for this one precious year, before he presumably takes a contract overseas, he'll be a new man.

We're talking a different sport and a different guy with different problems, but does anyone in this town remember Jesse Ryder? Never fitter, in a wonderful space, hasn't touched a drink for months - how many times were we told that?

At some point a body of evidence builds around a man that speaks louder than he does.

The Hurricanes management and players knew what they would get from Mark Hammett. They have no idea how Ma'a Nonu will behave.

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- The Dominion Post

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