Wyatt Crockett, the friendly giant from Golden Bay, and the man who has played more Super Rugby games than anyone else, will not get the fairytale finish to his career that he perhaps deserves.

Crockett, who has played 202 matches for the Crusaders, has been left out of the line-up to play the Lions in Christchurch in the grand final on Saturday night, an omission due to the riches in the defending champions' squad. Coach Scott Robertson described the decision as the toughest of his 11-year coaching career.

It means Crockett, who is about to move with his family back to Nelson, will not play another Super Rugby match and that selection conversation was not easy for either the 35-year-old or Robertson.

The loosehead prop didn't play against the Hurricanes in the semifinal last weekend either, with All Blacks incumbent Joe Moody virtually selecting himself in the No1 jersey and the returning Tim Perry preferred on the bench, and while Crockett may have seen the writing on the wall, it wouldn't have made it any easier.


"It was the hardest decision I've had to make as a coach – I'll be honest with you," Robertson said. "He is a great man, a great Crusader, the highest-capped player who has given more to this team than anyone else, so… we really thank him, but more importantly we want to send him out the way he should be sent out."

AMI Stadium was re-named "Wyatt Crockett Stadium" for the match against the Blues several weeks ago as the former All Black celebrated his 200 game milestone. He played against the Highlanders a week later and against the Sharks in the quarter-final – his last match in red and black.

Now he will be again watching from a seat in his stadium. Emotions would probably have run high when Robertson delivered the bad news. The Crusaders coach, an entertaining free spirit, has his serious side too and he chose his words carefully today as he announced Crockett's omission.

Asked how Crockett responded, he said: "You'll probably have to ask Wyatt… but it wasn't an easy conversation. We reconvened the next day."

Wyatt Crockett won't get a fairytale finish with the Crusaders. Photo / Getty
Wyatt Crockett won't get a fairytale finish with the Crusaders. Photo / Getty

For skipper Sam Whitelock, Crockett's response has been exemplary, as most would have expected.

"Crocky has had a great week," Whitelock said. "We asked him to bring that energy and he's been spot on with it. He's been pretty niggly at training which is what we asked of him.

"All the guys who haven't been selected in the 23 have really stepped up – not just this week but the whole year. And that's probably one of the main reasons for our success."

There's no room either for outside back Israel Dagg, an All Black on the rebound from injury who hasn't had the game time or discovered the form – or both – to reclaim either the fullback position or right wing spot.


David Havili, superb against the Hurricanes, will start in the No15 jersey and the powerful Seta Tamanivalu is in No14. Braydon Ennor, an impressive 21-year-old who scored against the Hurricanes, is bench cover.

Blindside flanker Jordan Taufua, who broke an arm against the Hurricanes, has been replaced in the starting line-up by Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, with Robertson preferring the impact potential of Pete Samu on the bench.

Samu, who made his test debut for the Wallabies this year, has been an excellent performer in the loose for the Crusaders, but can't crack the starting line-up – neither can All Blacks lock Luke Romano.

When you combine that with the fact neither Crockett nor Dagg can make the line-up, it just shows how strong this Crusaders squad is, and why they are so heavily favoured to add to the Lions' misery at grand finals time.

A win 10 years after the Crusaders last held a home final would bring title number nine to their Rugby Park headquarters, and few would bet against that happening.