Opinion: Barrett to the Blues not the issue here

2:42 pm on 14 June 2019

Opinion - Beauden Barrett looks a hard guy to know.

Generic pic of Barrett scoring a try against the Blues in Super Rugby.

Beauden Barrett. Photo: Photosport

Pleasant, polite, always immaculately turned out, the All Blacks first five-eighth certainly doesn't give a lot away in public.

What he's like in private seems to be anyone's guess, which is why talk of a move away from the Hurricanes to the Blues always feels very real.

Barrett is the son of a Hurricane and has played more than a hundred games there. He won a Super Rugby title with the franchise in 2016, with younger brother Jordie joining the next season.

The Blues emerge as a potential destination every time Barrett's contract is up and so far he's steadfastly remained a Hurricane. But for how long?

We sure as eggs don't know and you suspect the Hurricanes can't be certain either.

Head coach John Plumtree says his contract talks with the first five-eighth have been positive. That Barrett is loved and respected at the franchise and a great Hurricanes man.

The impression you get of Barrett, though, is of someone who's always holding a wee bit back. A man well aware that this is a professional game and that he is an elite player with a hugely marketable brand.

If he wants a week off from playing, or a new clause inserted in a contract, you assume he gets it. Said to be a good trainer and model professional, Barrett is also a winner and teams will do anything to get or keep a person of that calibre on their roster.

Daniel Carter was similar. Someone whose fame and interests extended well beyond rugby and who ended up living in Auckland for a time.

A dyed-in-the-wool Cantabrian, though, Carter never extended that to playing for the Blues, instead commuting to and from Christchurch to continue being a Crusader.

Ma'a Nonu, as well, as been a Blues and Highlanders player, but always called Wellington home.

Blues player Ma'a Nonu.

Ma'a Nonu has had two stints at the Blues, could Beauden Barrett follow suit? Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Barrett's wife is from Auckland and, as people hurry to join various dots, that's held up as a reason why he might be tempted to join the Blues. Heck, he might. It's just that others of his ilk have married the personal and professional without major upheaval.

It's funny that we fuss over whether Barrett's a Hurricane or a Blue, given how insignificant Super Rugby is becoming.

Already star All Blacks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick have signed contract extensions with New Zealand Rugby that will see them play in Japan and miss whole seasons of franchise footy here. Barrett is assumed to be negotiating a not dissimilar deal.

Down at the poor old Highlanders, 10 first-string players are off at the end of the season.

There's blokes at all stages of All Blacks careers among that lot, bet even the lure of test rugby isn't enough to keep them here.

Once upon a time stars sat out club rugby, then it was provincial and now it's Super. There are even strategic rests and mass changes on the test stage, leaving no level that's not regularly diluted.

No-one doubts the workload players suffer through. For those among the Sanzaar nations, travel is as much a part of that as playing and training too.

But the losers are always the fans, who are continually asked to pay more for less.

We have been lucky to witness Beauden Barrett's career. Hurricanes enthusiasts, doubly so.

His pace, vision, skill and audacity have helped take five-eighth play to a new level. Richie Mo'unga has just about matched that and others will eventually follow.

Barrett's been a credit to himself, his family and the teams that he's played for and only he will know where he's headed next.

Fans aren't the only ones eager to find out.

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