Substantial third-party contributions that helped lure Beauden Barrett to the Blues this season could play a role in prising influential brother Jordie from the Hurricanes.
The Herald understands the signing of Beauden, the biggest coup in Blues history, was supported by third-party payments in the region of $200,000 per season.
This is believed to have more than doubled the All Black star's Super Rugby salary and a similar deal could tempt the younger Barrett from the capital, despite the Blues recently failing in a second bid.
Jordie Barrett last week committed to the Hurricanes until the end of the 2021 season but not before a trip to Auckland, where the Blues hierarchy attempted to woo him for a second time.
By signing a one-year deal with the Hurricanes, however, the 23-year-old has again left open a potential move after the next Super Rugby season.
Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee confirmed the interest in Jordie and the Herald understands the Blues did their upmost to sign him.
"He was open to the fact he had been approached and kept us informed the whole way through," Lee said. "He handled it really well for a young guy.
"As a result of confirming his plans for 2021 Jordie didn't want a lot of fuss. He's a humble guy so we respect that. It's great to have him on board, he's playing superbly well and he's a real leader off the field so we're delighted."
Although Beauden moved north with other considerations in mind — he and wife Hannah are expecting their first child in September and her family is based in Auckland — the Herald understands the third-party deal the Blues stitched together for the 29-year-old is in the region of $200,000 per season.
This is on top of the $195,000 he is believed to earn at the Blues — the top-end of New Zealand's Super Rugby salaries but considerably less than what the two-time World Rugby Player of the Year was offered to play in France.
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After losing Kieran Read, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue among others from their region, Blues chief executive Andrew Hore is unapologetic about the franchise's on-going attempts to raid leading opposition players.
Just last week, the Blues signed promising Canterbury and New Zealand schools lock Sam Darry.
"The simple fact is for so long, people stood back and thought the Blues region was easy pickings," Hore told the Herald.
"Now it's time the Blues start looking after our own and also giving as good as we get on some fronts.
"I don't think that's something to be embarrassed about. We're serious about competing.
"We also have a desire to be the best, like anybody else. We can't keep all the talent but we can try to keep the good ones."
Hore rejected suggestions Auckland's vast commercial market gives the franchise a significant leg up in leveraging revenue to lure talent.
"Auckland, or the Blues, doesn't have an advantage over anybody else. You've raised some players today but every franchise has third-party agreements."
With the likes of Benji Marshall and Jerome Kaino, the Blues previously cultivated third-party deals with companies such as nib Insurance and Auckland Transport.
The importance of these deals to the Blues is underlined by the fact they faced the prospect of insolvency by July had crowds not been permitted to return to Super Rugby Aotearoa due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Third-party agreements are part of the collective agreement we have and that's the reality. Often if we didn't have those, we wouldn't have those young men in the country," Hore said.
"I've worked in Europe and I've seen how other systems operate. At least by having a third party agreement it's a very open and transparent process. It's unlike other countries where it's a brown paper bag in the back of a car. It's something that we're all entitled to use and all franchises use it. There's no foul play and we all adhere to those rules."
For the Hurricanes, the joy of retaining Jordie Barrett for next season won't last. Next year, he returns to the open market, and Lee knows the Blues could make another inevitable play to reunite the Taranaki brothers.
"Other players are happy to sign two, three and four year deals but there is a small percentage who, depending on where they're at in their career or the pecking order of the All Blacks, are looking to have flexibility in their contracts," Lee said. "There's not a lot we can do about it. It's obviously a factor in the player market."
Lee also conceded that Beauden Barrett's return from Japan – he will join Suntory Sungoliath and skip the 2021 Super Rugby season as per his sabbatical clause – may factor into Jordie's future decision.
"He hasn't talked about that. It was a special experience when they were playing here together but we're hoping Jordie wants to find his own path and continue to be a Hurricane but time will tell."