When lawyers eventually reach a settlement in the messy Etene Nanai-Seturo case, let's hope lessons are learned.

The first being 15-year-olds should not be signing five-year contracts, no matter how good they may be. Precisely because, at that age, they are still kids with largely insular views of the world and where it could potentially lead.

At 15, most would admit they had little grasp of who they were let alone what path to take in life.

Read more: Feud over young All Black star escalates


In a sporting context, Nanai-Seturo's situation surely highlights the folly of expecting adolescence-aged prospects to set their futures in stone.

Teenagers, until at least their last year at school, should be free to savour the enjoyment and friendship sport fosters before being influenced by an agent pushing in a particular direction.

Keep the pressures of professionalism at bay as long as possible.

Younger athletes, especially those from humble upbringings, are also far more vulnerable to manipulation.

Presented with a compelling, long-term offer that included plenty of zeros and other perks, it is understandable why Nanai-Seturo and his parents opted to sign with the Warriors.

The Warriors only did what they thought was best by attempting to secure a talented local player. This club, and the wider Auckland region, loses countless others well before the age of 15.

On the face of it, the Warriors can't be faulted for wanting to protect this one but the length of the agreement for someone of that age is questionable.

In this instance it must also be said the Warriors appear likely to be done over after investing in Nanai-Seturo over the past three years. Their angst is justified.


But is it really surprising that a potentially poorly advised teenager had a change of heart?

Any parent would tell you this happens every day.

In the league space often what is promised does not live up to the hype, with smoke and mirror tactics used by some rogue agents to lure impressionable youngsters across the Tasman with promises of fame. Many end up spat out the other side with minimal support.

Only 10 to 20 per cent of those involved in the junior competition progress to the NRL. There are also many cases of homesickness and consuming pressure leading to suicides.

Etene Nanai-Seturo played for the All Black Sevens side despite being under contract with the Warriors.
Etene Nanai-Seturo played for the All Black Sevens side despite being under contract with the Warriors.

In Australia, the likes of the Melbourne Storm and Bulldogs regularly sign teenagers but give them the option of backing out in Year 13. While they can't then join a rival club, they can switch codes.

This appears a much better approach.

In such a competitive market rugby union is also guilty of approaching and signing teenagers too young. Many New Zealand first XV teams are as professional as our provincial unions, with scholarships frequently used to poach talent.

Hastings' Boys High School first XV team manager Jason Bird said this week more than half his side had agents. That is not uncommon.

Nanai-Seturo is believed to now be on a New Zealand sevens contract, with the promise of graduating to one with the Chiefs in 2019.

After his time in the St Kentigern College first XV his switch of allegiance may have happened organically, but NZ Rugby are capable of using powers of persuasion, too.

While his own doing to a point, Nanai-Seturo is now at the centre of an ugly public spat, something of a throwback to the dark old days of bitter attitudes between rugby and league.

Given the fallout, NZ Rugby should probably have left Nanai-Seturo out of the Hamilton sevens squad this weekend, at least until the feud is resolved.

Regardless of where the tug-of-war ends up, the issue is Nanai-Seturo will always have the stigma of turning his back on one code and will, thus, upset a large section of fans.

While his performances in Hamilton suggest he is unburdened by the situation, expectations and hype are already hugely inflated because of the contract standoff.

That the courts may decide his immediate future sums up just what a sad start to an extremely promising career this is.

To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here