Brian Ashby: Adam Whitelock - centre of attention

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Adam Whitelock. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Whitelock. Photo / Getty Images

There's nothing flashy about Todd Blackadder. He's not the sort of bloke to buy into strange superstitions, but the number 13 has clearly been causing him one or two issues.

There'll be an element of buyer's regret with off-season purchase Rey Lee-Lo failing to fire, despite having looked impressive for the Hurricanes last year.

All Black Ryan Crotty is useful cover at centre, but his real value is one place further in. Halfback is the only place 2013 All Black Tom Taylor hasn't played in the Crusaders backline, and you wouldn't bet against him finishing a game there if there was an injury to Andy Ellis or Willi Heinz.

While he's doing a solid job for now at centre, the reality is, he's better suited at 10, 12, or 15. In some ways, he's becoming a victim of his own 'cut and paste" versatility.

Backup squad member Kieron Fonotia looked reasonably impressive until a hamstring injury put him up on blocks. His combination with Crotty dated back to when they were seven year olds sliding around on frosty New Brighton fields.

The Crusaders vice captain made no secret of his enjoyment of playing alongside his long-time club mate.

Looking ahead to the back of the international window, it still very much looks like a jersey that's up for grabs, and Blackadder does have more options.

Nemani Nadolo is expecting to play at centre for Fiji against both Italy and the Cook Islands in the next week or two. While he's expressed an interest in having a crack at 13 for the Crusaders, even he admits that the team is probably better served with him on the wing.

He has a point; with Zac Guildford having been cast adrift, the wing options are looking a little bony.

And that finally gets me to my point. There is a viable option but it's almost as if there has been a selection mind-blank. Adam Whitelock was superb for Canterbury during last year's ITM Cup.

His career has been blighted by untimely injuries and even this campaign saw him dealing with a hamstring issue early on. The 27-year-old is grossly under-appreciated. He is deceptively quick, brutal on defence and has an enormous work rate off the ball- an attribute that hasn't gone unnoticed by Sir Gordon Tietjens. Quite why the Crusaders have barely looked at him is a mystery.

It was a rather odd sight on the back of Crusaders training last week watching his brother George tutoring him on lineout skills. His lifting wasn't bad but his aerial skills remain a work in progress. Between working on dodgy speeches, no doubt Sir Titch will be pleased to learn of AW's extra-curricular activity as he plots and plans his team's bid for yet another Commonwealth Games Sevens Gold.

With the Crusaders now a little puzzlingly sitting at the top of the New Zealand Conference and well positioned to have a crack at the playoffs, coach Blackadder will want all hands on deck. However he may end up paying for his neglect of Adam Whitelock. All will become a little clearer after Sir Gordy cuts four players from his squad on the back of this week's Sevens camp at Mount Maunganui.

- NZ Herald

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