Last Friday, news broke that All Blacks superstar Beauden Barrett was leaving the Blues in 2021 to take up a contract playing in Japan. NZME's rugby writers quickly, and expertly, analysed what the move really meant for Barrett, the Blues, the All Blacks and rugby in New Zealand.

Barrett aside, our most popular premium piece of the week was Dylan Cleaver's breakdown of why hockey gets so much of HSPNZ's money, and basketball so little.

Here are the week's five top premium stories. Read them in full by subscribing to NZ Herald Premium.

Chris Rattue: The disease of misinformation surrounding Beauden Barrett

Rattue writes:

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Rugby's inner circle revels in telling the rank and file they don't know what goes on in scrums and other dark places like the tactics room, and that they don't need to know.

Now this disease of disinformation has spread to fullback. It's time to draw a line.

Beauden Barrett, the most brilliant running back in world rugby for many years, is being portrayed as a mysterious master of the marionettes at the Blues.

Well stuff all that string pulling nonsense. The settling in period for the former Hurricane is over.

Read the full article here.

Richie Mo'unga, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Jordie Barrett and assistant coach Ian Foster of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images.
Richie Mo'unga, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Jordie Barrett and assistant coach Ian Foster of the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images.

Exclusive: All Blacks coach reveals how close they came to losing Barrett

Liam Napier sat down with the All Blacks coach for an exclusive interview where Ian Foster revealed just how close Beauden Barrett came to missing All Blacks games in 2021.

"With some of the things put in front of him the options were do we as New Zealanders watch him zero of the next four years, or do we have him three years out of the four, said Foster. "We made a pragmatic decision that we'd love to have him three out the four."

Read the full article here.

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Dylan Cleaver - Why does hockey get millions while basketball lives on crumbs?

Cleaver writes:

No sport in New Zealand has ever had to do less for free money than hockey.

The sport's ongoing Government funding levels read like an attempt at humour but it's no joke: just ask basketball.

Two reports into the impact of Covid-19 on New Zealand sport – pieces of work that were out of date before they even came off the printer – have highlighted the gilded seat hockey occupies at the top table, and invites scrutiny as to how on earth it is warranted.

Read the full article here.

Interview: Leon MacDonald's warning to Blues fans

For all the hype and expectation building around the Blues this season, coach Leon MacDonald is well aware how quickly the mood can change; how quickly progress can be squandered if heads are allowed to inflate.

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He sits down with Liam Napier to unpack where the Blues are at, and where they're going.

Read the full article here.

Beauden Barrett of the Blues runs out during the round 3 Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Blues and the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.
Beauden Barrett of the Blues runs out during the round 3 Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Blues and the Highlanders. Photo / Getty Images.

Super Rugby Aotearoa: Five key questions about the future of game in New Zealand

Four weeks into Super Rugby Aotearoa, NZME sports journalists - chief rugby writer Liam Napier, Sports Editor-at-Large Dylan Cleaver and renowned columnist Chris Rattue - analyse the future of the game in New Zealand and where things are going right and wrong.

Read the full article here.