3 Apr 2019

More rugby players will head overseas

9:11 am on 3 April 2019

Blues first five Otere Black says New Zealand rugby fans can expect more leading players from this country to head overseas to ply their trade.

Blues first-five Otere Black unleashes a kick.

Blues first-five Otere Black unleashes a kick. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

After All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith on Monday confirmed he is staying put until the end of 2021, midfielder Ryan Crotty that night announced he would leave for Japan after this year's World Cup.

This morning, Black's former teammate at the Hurricanes, Sam Lousi, announced his departure to play for Welsh side Scarlets.

More All Blacks and fringe All Blacks are beginning to take up contracts offshore, and 23-year-old Black believed that trend is set to continue.

"From experience, and from what I've heard from a lot of the guys, it's never an easy situation to be in.

"But it's not bad being a wanted man and a lot of the boys look at it as being wanted is better than having [no interest].

"Everyone weighs up what's best for them and over the years I've seen players leave because they want to do what's best for their families. For Maori and Polynesian boys, it's a massive part of their culture. It's never an easy decision to leave New Zealand Rugby but family is pretty important for a lot of guys in this country.

"It's just the way the game's gone now and we're probably going to have to get used to it," Black said.

Previously it has been a rarity for top New Zealand players to leave the country while still playing, or still in contention, for the All Blacks.

But after outside back Charles Piutau left at the age of only 23 with just 17 test caps, more of a similar ilk have done the same.

First-five Lima Sopoaga, flanker Steven Luatua and, more recently, wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, loose-forwards Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock and lock Jackson Hemopo are among the examples.

Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga Photo: Photosport NZ

Black said the All Blacks jersey still had a strong pull, but believed players were now making more considered decisions around their future.

The New Zealand Maori pivot, who sat out the entire 2018 Super Rugby season with a serious knee injury, wants to stay and chase his dream but was aware he needs to keep things in perspective.

"As I get a bit older and I see things that are happening around the world, I realise rugby is not everything.

"That's one thing I've noticed, especially being injured, is that the game can be taken away from you just like that.

"Most players now, know rugby's not going to be there forever, so we need to do our best to look after our families.

"Rugby's not the be-all and end-all of life, it's more enjoying the experience and having fun.

"That's the way I look at it now. I feel very blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be a rugby player.

"Before I got injured I was more just a young fella who was stoked to be there."

Meanwhile, Black said he and the rest of the Blues squad are benefiting hugely from the contributions of midfield stars Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams.

While they are yet to start a game together this season, Nonu and Williams have been among the standouts as the Auckland franchise have bounced back from three losses with three consecutive wins.

Black said the pair, along with fellow midfielder TJ Faiane, had been been a big part of the Blues improved fortunes.

"It's awesome. We all know what sort of players they're like and all our midfielders are classy players.

"TJ is playing some great footy and Sonny and Ma'a are obviously very destructive ball players.

"For me playing off the back of that is pretty handy but playing alongside guys like that is awesome and it gives not just me a lot of confidence but our whole team."