Dylan Cleaver: NZRU could take lessons (and stars) from league

The outrageously talented Warriors halfback, Shaun Johnson, is an excellent study in talent spotling and development. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The outrageously talented Warriors halfback, Shaun Johnson, is an excellent study in talent spotling and development. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Shaun Johnson for All Black first five-eighths or halfback - why not?

Forget all that stuff about contracts. There's yet to be one written that a professional sportsman hasn't been able to extract himself from. Where there's a lawyer, there's a way.

Discount the theory that Johnson is league to the core. So is Sonny Bill Williams, last seen hovering on the wing for the All Blacks.

Johnson, the outrageously talented Warriors halfback, has the skills to be a global sporting superstar. It won't happen in rugby, despite the IRB's posturing about 100-plus member countries, but he'll get a hell of a lot closer than he will in league.

If the Warriors win on Sunday, and expert opinion seems to have them at about a 40-45 per cent chance of doing so, then Johnson has scaled the mountain. What is there left for him to achieve? The Four Nations? A contract in Hull?

All facetiousness aside, Johnson is a remarkable case study in talent identification, talent development and a football club showing acuity in knowing when to let him loose and when to rein him in.

Almost the exact opposite of what has happened at the Blues, circa 2004-10.

What must hurt even more for rugby bosses is one of the key people behind the emergence of the Warriors as a development club par excellence is John Hart, a 15-man man through and through.

The Warriors gave Hart a home when the rest of us were still fuming over Christian Cullen's ill-fated run at centre. Hart is not the only reason for the Warriors' success - probably not even the main reason - but he's played a big part.

Look at the Junior Warriors and you'll recognise that this is a club that has more talent, mostly homegrown, than it can possibly use.

Look at the Blues and you'll see talent being shipped in from all over Wellington.

The Warriors have Johnson, Kevin Locke and more likely lads lurking in the juniors, while the Blues and Auckland have failed to produce a playmaker of note, instead punting on a succession of imports.

The New Zealand Rugby Union should look very closely at what they're doing at the Warriors in terms of talent recognition and player development. Steal the ideas for player development and then plunder some of their players.

The brochure shouldn't be that difficult to write.

Unless you're at the top 1 per cent of your craft, the money is better in rugby, you get to see more of the world than Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane and the M62. Also, the All Blacks, despite the Warriors heroics this month, are still the No1 gig in town.

If you don't make it to the top in rugby, you're still in line for a nice, lucrative lifestyle move to Europe or Japan.

If you don't make it to the top in league, you get to - er - the Newtown Jets?

When they're done writing the brochure to attract 13-man players to the 15-man game, there's one other thing the NZRU and Blues should write: a note of thanks to the Warriors for doing all their donkey work for them.

- NZ Herald

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