Counties first-five Kerr in Blues hot seat
Baden Kerr needs to enjoy his Christmas break, because 2013 could be the biggest year of his life.
As a first-five, the 23-year-old will be the most-watched player in the most-watched franchise, as he embarks on the next chapter of his career with the Blues..
He will battle it out with Chris Noakes for the No 10 jersey, and while Noakes is the most experienced player, it will be Kerr who could get the pulses racing at Eden Park with some of the dynamic play he produced for Counties Manukau in the NPC.
Kerr is a likeable, chatty character, who doesn't seem to get flustered by much. He'll need to have that type of personality next year as the weight of expectation on this young Blues side could weigh heavily on his shoulders.
Ever since Carlos Spencer departed the Blues have been struggling for a quality first-five, other than Nick Evans, and none have really fitted the bill.
Kerr flourished under Steelers coach Tana Umaga this year as his game went up another level.
He is an adventurous first-five who likes to do the unexpected, not to the level that Spencer did, but in his own small ways. However, he says he doesn't feel like he'll have to regularly delve into a bag of tricks to live up to the levels of Spencer.
"One of Tana's big bits of advice was that when you start a game you just do the basics," Kerr told Sunday News.
"You do everything you need to do and you concentrate on your job, and then that special stuff might come later on.
"First and foremost you've got to worry about your core roles and your basic responsibilities, so I would love to do some special things, but my focus right now is to do the basics and what I can for the team." Counties' success in the winning the Championship division this year led to 10 of their player being rewarded with Super Rugby contracts for 2013 . Kerr says it is great to see the individual efforts being rewarded with fulltime professional contracts.
"It is awesome that so many of us made it into Super Rugby," he said.
"It's a testament to what Tana has done to the boys and all of the hard work from the end of last year, right through to the end of this year.
"It took a long time to build up to the ITM Cup and it required a lot of effort - that came down to Tana tapping boys on the shoulder and saying ‘this is what we need to work on'."
While there will be plenty of attention on how Kerr goes, he'll need to make sure he makes the best use of his outside backs.
In the likes of Charles Piutau, George Moala, Francis Saili and Malakai Fekitoa he has four of the most exciting young backs in the country lining up outside him.
But Kerr is used to playing with exceptional backs and it was because of his vision and skill that Frank Halai, Tim Nanai-Williams, Rey Lee Lo, Sherwin Stowers and Bundee Aki all had exceptional seasons.
"There is a lot of X-factor and that's going to kick on from Counties, which was awesome," Kerr said.
"Watching Charles, George and those boys play, I was watching as a fan, so now to play alongside them is pretty exciting because they're young as well.
"They have got that talent and the Blues' attacking style of rugby, so I can't wait to play alongside them."
What makes Kerr's move to the Blues more special is that he grew up as a fan of this franchise, despite living inside the Chiefs' catchment area.
"I used to sit on the terraces, so to see the stands as they are now is pretty awesome," he said.
"JK [John Kirwan] speaks about trying to fill it up and get some good crowds here and that's going to be an experience I'll never forget.
"There is something to really look forward to now, hearing JK and the other coaches talk gives you the shivers and they also mention excitement a lot, which is exactly how I am feeling.
"Training is just around the corner now, so I can't wait."