ABs thin stocks won't budge Tamati Ellison

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2013
Tamati Ellison
Fairfax NZ
HEADING OFF: Tamati Ellison has no regrets about his decision to head to Japan.

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Japan-bound Highlanders centre Tamati Ellison is confident he’s made the right call despite the All Blacks thin midfield resources.

‘‘I had to make a decision a wee while ago, before a few guys got injured. I think there’ll be another good guy to fill that spot,’’ the four-test All Black said.

The 30-year-old spent three years with Japanese club Ricoh before returning to play for the Highlanders over the past two seasons, regaining a place in the All Blacks in the process.

He has signed a one-year deal with Ricoh, but has options for a second.

‘‘If I’d decided I wanted to stay, I’d have definitely backed myself to go head to head with the other guys who are contenders for All Blacks midfield spots and I think that’s the way it has to be,’’ Ellison said.

‘‘I didn’t want to get a discounted jersey or get there because the rest of the guys have fallen over.’’

Ellison underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and said the injury he picked up during the All Blacks end-of-season tour had been a factor in his decision.

‘‘It wasn’t anything definite, but it was a reminder how fickle the game is and how fast things can move. One week you can be right in the frame and the next you can hurt your shoulder, three other guys play well and your stocks have slipped a bit. In terms of a career decision you have to be able to manage that as best you can.’’

With his options still fluid, Ellison hasn’t ruled out being involved in New Zealand rugby in the future.

‘‘In terms of security, it obviously helps to have a contract where you are locked in a wee bit longer to cover for injuries, but at the same time if you want to continue to play at a higher level you want some flexibility in your contract to allow you to play Super Rugby or something like that,’’ he said.

Ellison said European rugby had been an appealing option, but the distances involved in moving his young family around the world had ruled it out.

He’s looking forward to getting home after the Highlanders midseason tour, which has so far included losses to the Kings and Bulls and sees them take on fellow cellar dwellers the Western Force in Perth on Saturday night.

It’s likely Ellison will make a rare appearance alongside Ma’a Nonu against the Force.

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Nonu has recovered sufficiently from a knee injury which stopped him from going to South Africa, although he has picked up a bit of a travel cold which several of his team mates are sharing.

Josh Bekhuis will come back into selection reckoning after a shoulder injury, while John Hardie has been unable to train due to a sprained ankle.

Shaun Treeby (concussion), Chris King (bicep) and Tony Ensor (groin) had already returned home, but King’s injury is not as serious as the season-ender it was first thought to be.The Highlanders team will be named today.

- The Southland Times

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