Wellington won't be bereft of fullback talent without Charlie Ngatai.
Lions coach Chris Boyd was hardly delighted to see the 23-year-old Chiefs and Maori All Blacks utility sign with Taranaki this week.
But he accepts player movement as an inevitability of professional rugby and doubted that Ngatai's signing with Taranaki was the first tangible example of that union's new bed-sharing arrangement with the Chiefs.
"I would be more disappointed if we lost a Wellington player who was playing for the Hurricanes and went to play their ITM Cup rugby somewhere else," said Boyd.
The Hurricanes have done well out of Taranaki over the years, just as Taranaki boys such as Conrad Smith and Beauden Barrett have found a route to the All Blacks via the Hurricanes.
But Boyd believes the fact Taranaki now has a financial stake in the Chiefs was pure coincidence where the Ngatai capture was concerned.
"I asked Charlie the same question and the indication from Charlie was that this was not a Chiefs initiative, it was a Taranaki initiative," Boyd said.
Ngatai came to Wellington straight from Gisborne Boys' High School and was a useful performer in midfield and, latterly, at fullback.
Boyd doesn't believe his sudden NPC departure will herald more personnel moves out of Wellington or leave a gap that can't be filled.
"We played Charlie at 15 this year and Matt Proctor can play 15, Ambrose Curtis can play 15, Joe Hill can play 15 and we've contracted a boy called Sam McNicol [from Hawke's Bay] who's the New Zealand Secondary Schools' fullback. He's a very good prospect, so I'm very comfortable we have adequate replacements."
Boyd is also content in the knowledge that players will continue to play their NPC rugby for Wellington for less money than they could earn elsewhere. He has worked hard to create a homegrown team that connects strongly to the city and that has generally been enough to repel offers from other unions.
"The spreading of talent and manipulation of talent around contracting, that should be done at the Super level ... but provinces are provinces and by and large players will identify more passionately to a province than they will to a franchise," Boyd said.
"The Wellington guys have all indicated to me that this is home and they want to play for home. So as long as we keep creating an environment for them to a) enjoy and b) to become better rugby players I don't see why there's any need for them to play anywhere else other than money."
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