Dan Carter is set to take a mammoth pay cut when he links up with the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Carter's return to New Zealand rugby is expected to be confirmed today, with the Blues set to announce the signing of the 38-year-old All Blacks legend on a short-term deal as injury cover for Stephen Perofeta.
That deal will mean Carter signs as a replacement player, on a minimum-salary contract of $1800 a week - $18,000 for the season if he stays on the roster for the entire 10 weeks of the competition.
The dual World Cup winner and three-time world player of the year was reportedly on a contract in excess of $2 million a year in Japan, but late additions to Super Rugby squads stand to earn the $1800 a week salary, meaning the likes of Carter, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Sam Whitelock are playing on a relative pittance compared to what they earned overseas.
However, with Super Rugby Aotearoa the first major rugby competition to return worldwide, and wrapping up by the middle of August, there is the opportunity for top New Zealand players to stay fit and playing at a high level, before heading back to big-money overseas competitions, even though the top-tier earning potential may be somewhat diluted because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Carter is a free agent after finishing his playing commitments with Japanese club Kobe Steelers after the season there was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he has since returned to Auckland with his family.
"I want to thank the club, fans and my teammates for welcoming me and making the last two seasons some of the most enjoyable rugby I have ever played," Carter said in April after leaving the Steelers, amid questions about whether he was set to retire.
But test rugby's all-time top point scorer was in fine touch in Japan during the last three seasons and his motives for potentially joining the Blues are said to be giving back to New Zealand rugby by sharing his knowledge and experience in the swansong of his career, and there still could be more to come on the field too.
Speaking to Irish first-five Johnny Sexton recently, Carter suggested players could now push their careers into their 40s.
"Using this time off, it's something you don't get as a professional rugby player," Carter said. "Having two or three months, maybe it's going to be much longer, of not having that constant grind, that contact. So it is like a mini sabbatical. I was very fortunate to have a couple through my career, but if it's used wisely the young players that have been playing heavily for the past four or five seasons, it's perfect timing.
"Then you look at the other side of the spectrum with more experienced players like yourself [Sexton], you don't get many opportunities like this. So, if it's used wisely and you keep training, and as long as your motivation upstairs is still there, I can't see why you can't play longer than potentially you thought you might, with having a break like this.
"Obviously, there is some pretty exciting rugby around the corner over the next couple of years, so I told Maro [Itoje] that I expect him to still be playing when he's 38 years old, like myself, and with you having a break like this then you can probably push through to the 40s. So, I'm looking forward to seeing that."