Rugby: Ng Shiu could have been with Samoa 7s

By Campbell Burnes

Tone Ng Shiu. Photo / Getty Images.
Tone Ng Shiu. Photo / Getty Images.

Tone Ng Shiu is enjoying his time with the All Blacks Sevens, yet, but for a curious twist of events at last month's nationals in Rotorua, he could have been wearing the Samoan colours on the World Series.

Ng Shiu appeared for Tasman, raising the interest of Samoan coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.

But here's where things get murky.

On the second day's play in Rotorua, Tietjens was seen, in the grandstand, talking to Ng Shiu.

Tietjens says that the 22-year-old, Napier-born Ng Shiu, while not a standout, would have been good value for his young Samoan side.

He says he waited until the end of the tournament to approach Ng Shiu, checking with the Tasman management whether he had received a letter inviting him to a four-day training camp for the New Zealand team starting the next day. At that point there was apparently no letter.

Tietjens says Ng Shiu was keen to play for Samoa, but returned a short time later to say that New Zealand had now offered him a contract, which must have placed Ng Shiu in an invidious position.

The Herald understands the New Zealand contract was as much as twice what Samoa could offer, though this is no surprise given the respective budgets.

He opted for New Zealand, and made the 12-man cut for Wellington, where he started one game and other off the bench, but was a travelling reserve for Sydney. He is in the squad for Las Vegas and Vancouver, flying out tomorrow.

"That is correct, but I don't really want to comment on that," says Ng Shiu, when asked to confirm the basic chain of events in Rotorua.

All Blacks Sevens coach Scott Waldrom says Ng Shiu was already on their radar, but they made a firm approach once the tournament was completed.

"He was first identified at the (December) southern regional qualifiers and he went into a contenders' list for the contracted squads," says Waldrom.

Impressed with Ng Shiu's aerial skills in the crucial kickoffs area, Waldrom says his selection was confirmed after Tasman's first match of day two.

"There was no official approach then because we didn't want to distract him from the tournament. Gordon certainly got in before us, but our approach was never a reaction to him speaking to him. I guess it's a little bit different for Gordon. He's trying to get these guys as quickly as possible. He identified a player and we identified a player. We gave Tone the opportunity to make the decision in the end," Waldrom says.

Tietjens is philosophical and says he harbours no bitterness, despite a break from New Zealand Rugby last year that was not that amicable.

"I just move on. It is what it is. Perhaps I need to be selective about where I talk to players, out of view," he says. "But it's no sour grapes at all. I'm not blaming New Zealand Rugby. They have a business to run."

Ng Shiu's international eligibility is now captured, but he may one day be able to follow the example of Tim Nanai-Williams, who had played for New Zealand in sevens, but was able to represent Manu Samoa at Rugby World Cup 2015 after appearing in four sevens tournaments for Samoa in 2014-15.

- NZ Herald

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