Farewell to Nonu

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

Rob­bie Deans, not nor­mally given to flights of fancy, once de­scribed Dan Carter as the great­est player in rugby his­tory. That as­sess­ment seemed a bit of a stretch in 2007.

Since then, Carter has got bet­ter, set­ting a world record for most test points and adding ex­pe­ri­ence to his var­i­ous skills.

You’d think that with the much-praised Carter on the field, other play­ers would have to take a back seat, but that cer­tainly wasn’t the case at the Welling­ton sta­dium on Satur­day evening.

The Cru­saders played the Hur­ri­canes, and a crowd of 17,500 (a Welling­ton record for the sea­son by 5000) turned out, de­spite grim weather. They weren’t there to see the mas­ter­ful Carter, or any of his big-name Cru­saders team-mates.

It was a chance to farewell sev­eral Hur­ri­canes stal­warts.

The cap­tain, Andrew Hore, a vet­eran of 10 sea­sons in the Hur­ri­canes jer­sey, was told ear­lier this month he was no longer re­quired. So too was Ma’a Nonu, the sturdy mid­fielder so closely iden­ti­fied with Welling­ton rugby.

Rod­ney So’oialo, Johnny Sch­wal­ger and Neemia Tialata closed their Hur­ri­canes ca­reers, and back­line stars such as Aaron Cru­den, Piri Weepu and Cory Jane are weigh­ing their op­tions.

The ax­ing of Nonu was the big­gest news in Welling­ton rugby since Jonah Lomu an­nounced he would be­come a Hur­ri­cane in 2000. So there was a spe­cial feel­ing the other night.

Ev­ery time Nonu got the ball, the crowd buzzed. Un­for­tu­nately for the lo­cals, the Cru­saders’ de­fence was so or­gan­ised and tight Nonu had few chances to set the game alight.

I was stunned when I heard Nonu and Hore had been dumped by fledg­ling Su­per coach Mark Ham­mett.

They are qual­ity play­ers, and the All Black coaches don’t seem to have trou­ble get­ting the best out of them.

Per­haps it sig­nalled a de­fi­ciency in Ham­mett’s coach­ing? But let’s think a lit­tle deeper.

The Hur­ri­canes, de­spite all the su­perb play­ers they’ve had over the years, have never won a Su­per ti­tle. This sea­son they’ve failed to make even the ex­panded play-offs.

Lis­ten­ing to Ham­mett the other evening, I could see what he was get­ting at. He said the fort­night since the an­nounce­ment had been ex­tremely tough on him and his fam­ily, as Welling­ton rugby fans left him in no doubt what they thought of Nonu’s forced de­par­ture.

‘‘I’m the cul­prit in their eyes. I just have to take it,’’ he said. ‘‘ We are a pas­sion­ate peo­ple and we wouldn’t want to lose that. But there does need to be change.’’

For all his shel­lack­ing, Ham­mett re­mains adamant about what he’s done. He said he had got to know the play­ers dur­ing the sea­son.

The Cru­saders rolled into Welling­ton, took on a fired-up Hur­ri­canes side and did the busi­ness pro­fes­sion­ally, even with one eye on the play-offs.

It would be nice for Hur­ri­canes fans if their team could dis­play some of that clin­i­cal ef­fi­ciency. If Ham­mett, for­merly a Cru­sader, can bring that to the Hur­ri­canes, Wellingtonians will for­give him for all his sins, even the sack­ing of our man Ma’a.

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