Robson: Nonu no sure thing at Hurricanes

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2013
Ma'a Nonu
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
UNHAPPY CHAP: Ma'a Nonu would be a perfect fit at the Crusaders.

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OPINION: If Ma'a Nonu and Mark Hammett do eventually sit down and have a conversation this week it is likely to be the last in a series.

The question of whether the Hurricanes are willing to welcome their problem child back into the family home is far more complex than one meet and greet.

There are a variety of interest groups involved and until all of them have had their say, the public silence around Nonu's situation will likely continue.

We can assume Nonu is keen to return to Wellington.

He's made it known privately, is living in the capital, and is passionate about his home town.

If the 31-year-old's only motivation was money he would already be in the south of France or Japan rather than training with his Oriental Rongotai clubmates at the Polo Ground twice a week.

Lets also assume the New Zealand Rugby Union are doing their best to help find the All Blacks incumbent second five eighth a welcoming work place.

Which brings us back to the Hurricanes where chief executive James Te Puni and his board will have been doing their sums.

They will have reservations about a player who has fallen flat at three successive franchises.

But after watching average crowds plummet to 11,000 Te Puni and his board will be thinking hard about the bottom line.

No business likes losing money and until the Hurricanes bring a playoff match to Westpac Stadium, the franchise's coffers will remain idle at best.

Te Puni would be a fool not to at least consider the potential off-field benefits of an All Black star.

The plot-line of a local lad coming home to try and right the wrongs of his checkered past would have any marketing team salivating.

It could be the hat on which to sell the annual drive to sell season passes.

Which puts Hammett in a tight spot.

Commercial realities aside, he will presumably take some convincing.

He will be reluctant to move the line in the sand he drew when he showed Nonu the door in 2011.

Both men say they have moved on and harbour no ill-will over what happened two years ago.

But Hammett will still need assurances Nonu can fit into the culture, buy into the team ethos, honour the team's commitment to the wider community.

And he'll also need the blessings of a senior player group who are currently revelling in a harmonious work place.

All of the above takes time. One significant voice of disapproval could render the whole exercise null and void.

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The NZRU are understandably treading carefully. They do not want to be seen to be forcing a player upon a franchise and would prefer the Hurricanes to come to their own decision.

Nonu's agent Warren Alcock will be wary too of pre-empting his clients future. The Hurricanes are unlikely to be the only option and if things don't work out then the world is his oyster.

And so, everyone waits with baited breath, most likely until two blokes have had a coffee that, unless the stars align, might not even take place.

- The Dominion Post

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