Nonu's move south a major setback for Blues
Kirwan unable to contain sense of disappointment over Nonu reneging on ‘deal', writes David Long.
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan feels he has been badly let down by Ma'a Nonu's decision to join the Highlanders for next season.
Kirwan has been left in the lurch and will have to frantically search for another second-five for next season, because Nonu has gone back on a handshake agreement with him that he'd complete his two-year deal with the Auckland-based franchise.
After a meeting nearly a month ago, Kirwan was confident that he had secured the services of the world's best second-five, so he stood by and watched other midfielders get signed up.
But he was told, last Friday, that Nonu had done a U-turn and would be joining the Highlanders next year.
He asked Nonu to spend some time thinking over that decision but on Monday night was told that Nonu wasn't coming back.
It is a terrible look for the Blues, especially after Tony Woodcock also decided he no longer wanted to play for the team and will head to Dunedin.
Kirwan has every right to feel he has been let down.
"I went down to Wellington and came home with 100 per cent [belief] that he was coming to us," Kirwan said yesterday.
"It has been difficult for us because we changed what we were doing over the three-week period and made some decisions.
"Before the deadline at 5pm [on Friday] I got another phone call and everything changed pretty quick."
If Kirwan had known earlier that Nonu wasn't coming, no doubt he would have thought of stopping Hadliegh Parkes from signing with the Southern Kings or looked to have got Bundee Aki before he went to the Chiefs or not de-listed Michael Hobbs or snapped up the promising Jason Emery, who can now expect to receive minimal game time at the Highlanders.
"This is about thinking I was getting a player three-and-a-half weeks ago and other players being contracted," Kirwan said.
"Or me making decisions with people's lives and either not signing guys or moving guys to other things because I though I had that.
"I am personally disappointed and that's between Ma'a and I.
"I am disappointed and I'm not going to hide that fact. I am pleased Ma'a is making a decision that's best for him and his family but I won't let one person expose this franchise.
"I care and love this city and great region of ours. We got exposed and that is unfair on us.
"But I am not going to sit here moaning. We are going to have a fantastic young football team and bring it on."
Making matters worse for Kirwan is the news that Mils Muliaina hasn't been able to get out of the last year of his contract with NTT Docomo to join the Blues next year.
So Piri Weepu's role in the team will be even more vital as there will be hardly any experience next year in the the backline.
The irony is that a major reason why Weepu came to the Blues this year was to be with Nonu.
The two players are close friends and no doubt Weepu will miss being with Nonu.
"Piri will be fine," Kirwan said. "I think he likes it here but I will talk to him about it.
"We want him to turn up, because they (the other players) are going to be half his age."."