Richard Loe 's Opinion

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: It may be no Nonu is good news for Kirwan

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Blues Coach John Kirwan. Photo / Greg Bowker
Blues Coach John Kirwan. Photo / Greg Bowker

I predict - and I hope - that Jamie Joseph keeps a sharp claw on Ma'a Nonu at the Highlanders next season and doesn't take any of the nonsense that appears to have marked Nonu's time at Super Rugby level lately.

I also agree with the sentiment that Blues coach Sir John Kirwan shouldn't be too upset - it's Nonu's third franchise in three years and, if he doesn't pull his head in at the Highlanders, my guess is that people like Joseph and Brad Thorn will make sure he is looking for a fourth.

It's difficult to know what is going on in Nonu's head as he hasn't told anyone why he wanted to leave the Blues for the Highlanders but, whatever the reasons, you'd have to say the Blues will be better off without him in the long run if he didn't want to be there.

For sure, three franchises in three years suggests quite a bit of baggage and I know that the old Hurricanes franchise had a fair bit of funny business going on.

The old Hurricanes team - or certain individuals - always seemed to me to think they were better than they actually were; there was always a sense there that certain senior players ran the show and did it their way.

Their results didn't always back up the attitude and I think we saw the last remnants of that when Mark Hammett cleared his decks at the beginning of the last Super Rugby season.

Nonu had taken over Tana Umaga's mantle as the big dreadlocked man in the middle of the backline and there were others, including Piri Weepu, Neemia Tialata and more who contributed to what I used to feel was just a bad vibe coming out of the Hurricanes back then.

Hammett cleaned house - and now the Highlanders have three of the guys who came out of that team (Nonu, Andrew Hore and Hosea Gear).

They'll need to keep an eye on Nonu and his influence but I'd back Joseph and people like Thorn to do that and I have to say: the whole mess could actually turn out to be quite good for all concerned in the end.

I'm sure Kirwan doesn't feel like that right now but a disaffected player, affecting others, who doesn't want to play for you ... ?

He's better off without him and it gives a young player an opportunity.

As for the disaffected, well, the whole business seems to have been a shot in the arm for Hore. He's been playing some brilliant stuff for the All Blacks and it really is true that a change is as good as a holiday sometimes. I told his dad, Jimmy, who was less than impressed with Hammett, that he should thank the coach as it's made such a difference to Andrew.

The same thing could happen with Nonu after that pretty useless experience with the Blues. I can remember Todd Blackadder saying to me that, if he had been Blues coach, he would not have taken either Nonu or Weepu on board - because of Weepu's condition after the World Cup and because Nonu had been off in Japan, playing non-stop rugby, and was a tired man.

The other reason I think this whole transfer schemozzle could work out well in the end is that it could be good for Nonu, as it was for Hore. You also have to ask whether Nonu is a natural leader of men and whether he would have led the way in the Blues' revival. My instinct is that he isn't and he wouldn't have.

Jamie Joseph got the Lions right, Hammett did the business with the Hurricanes last year and now Wayne Pivac has got the Auckland ITM Cup side moving. Kirwan's efforts with the Blues are next and I bet the Blues players from the Auckland ITM Cup side are seeing life through a different set of glasses these days - and so will the Blues under Kirwan.

So maybe, in the end, they just won't need Ma'a Nonu.

- Herald on Sunday

Richard Loe

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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