John Kirwan must have almost rolled off his stool when Dominic Bird re-signed with the Crusaders.
Kirwan, new Blues coach and legendary All Blacks wing, had good reason to be astonished when the big Canterbury lock recently resisted his sales pitch and elected not to move to Auckland.
It was over breakfast in Christchurch last month when Kirwan turned his charm on to Bird.
He outlined the vision to rejuvenate the sickly Blues franchise, indicated Bird would have a better chance of getting games and probably hinted a hefty pay-rise was imminent.
Kirwan made some relevant points but for the Crusaders, the major obstacles to retaining Bird lay within their own organisation - All Blacks Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano and Tom Donnelly.
The trio have either signed or are poised to return next season.
Yet Bird still committed to the Crusaders for another two years and Kirwan, so the rugby gossips around the rugby campfires in Auckland say, rolled his eyes and tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling in disbelief.
Bird, 21, said it was not easy to turn down Kirwan whom he had previously met when Kirwan presented the jerseys to last year's New Zealand under-20 team.
"I sat down and had breakfast with him and he is a very passionate man.
"He was really keen and I definitely took it into consideration.
"I was honoured, really," Bird said.
"But those guys [Whitelock, Romano and Donnelly] are going to help me become the best footy player I can be - that's why I'm sticking around.
"In the long-term I feel I will be better off.
"I may not play a lot of footy in Super Rugby next year but the year after I will definitely be pushing for it."
If he spends more time on the outer next year, Bird, a Lincoln University student, will feel qualified to pen a thesis on the merits of being patient.
For the past two seasons he has been a member of the Crusaders' wider training group but his only minutes with the Crusaders have been in pre-season matches.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was in no position to make any promises about regular game-time and didn't.
"He [Blackadder] was honest," Bird said.
"He said he couldn't guarantee anything but I have just got to build on my game, work my way there."
"My heart was always here but I was close to going up there . . .
"I just feel this is the right decision."
The length of the Super season, which runs from late February to early August if teams make the playoffs, can take a grim toll on the members of a team. That's where the 2.06m Bird sights an opportunity to finally strike the big time.
"And, who knows, there may be injuries. I have talked to another couple of guys who have been in similar positions . . . and you just have to bide your time - opportunities open. There were guys last season who didn't expect to play much and have played a whole heap."
- © Fairfax NZ News