Auckland rugby fans say superstar Dan Carter would be a crowd-pleaser if he signed for the Blues, but his deep Canterbury roots will be hard to sever.
With Benji Marshall's departure this week, the Blues' ongoing problems finding a stable pivot has again sparked speculation on who should play at first five-eighth.
Marshall and his wife, radio host Zoe, will return to Sydney soon after the league star's short-lived stint in Auckland. Yesterday, Herald rugby writer Wynne Gray suggested Carter joining the Blues was a win-win for the player and the franchise. After all, Carter already had a house in Auckland and had reportedly considered donning a Blues jersey before.
At The Kingslander, just a punt from Eden Park, bartender Ryan Freeman said the Blues must stop poaching players.
"The Blues need to bring some home-grown talent through." Yet he still thought Carter would be a hit with Aucklanders.
"Carter would be well-received and I don't think you'd have to pay too much to get him."
But Carter's father Neville booted talk of his son joining Auckland into touch. "He's Cantabrian through and through," he said last night. "It's interesting but I'm pretty sure he'll finish his career with the Crusaders."
At Kingsland's Faltering Fullback pub, patron Dermot Knapp had similar views. "He'll never join - not at his age and this point in his career," the Auckland plumber said.
Knapp's friend, manager Mark Katavich, said it was a big deal for a Christchurch lad like Carter to move to Auckland. "If you've been in the stands at an Auckland-Canterbury game, you'll understand. They hate us, and that's a good thing."
Waitakere club president Kel Eddis said Carter would probably be a crowd-puller if he joined the Blues. But Eddis questioned whether Carter would fit into the franchise, which he said had a more Pacific-influenced culture than the Crusaders'.
Auckland College Rifles president Kevin Reilly said everyone knew Carter was closely linked to Canterbury and even in the professional era, loyalty still counted for something.
But the Blues would be foolish not to pursue Carter if he wanted to play for Auckland and anyone who turned down a player of Carter's calibre "would live to regret it".
The Blues are currently the worst-performing New Zealand side in the Super 15, despite beating Sydney's Waratahs on Friday night.
Carter was in Auckland yesterday and met V8 Supercars Championship leader and five-time Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes at the Red Bull Racing team pits in Pukekohe.