Huge year on, off field for Barrett
All Blacks kingpin eyes marriage, World Cup and overseas stint, writes Paul Cully.
It’s a wedding first, the Rugby World Cup and then likely Japan for a year for All Blacks and Hurricanes No 10 Beauden Barrett.
Barrett is about to embark on one of the busiest years of his life – starting with his wedding to partner Hannah Laity next weekend – and at the end of it he will almost certainly pack his bags for an overseas adventure, with Japan leading France as the likely destination.
Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee confirmed to the Sunday News he was preparing to be without his star player for 2020 but also had some reassuring news for Hurricanes and All Blacks fans – Barrett will be back and wants to build a legacy in both jerseys.
‘‘We’re still talking to his management,’’ Lee said. ‘‘There’s interest in him going away for potentially one year and then coming back. Beaudy’s a very loyal person. He’s not going to take off and never come back but there’s some real interest in him.
‘‘There’s nothing concrete but I’m not sure Beaudy will be here for the whole Rugby World Cup cycle from 2020-2023.
‘‘But if he’s here for the majority of that I think that would be a good result for the Hurricanes and the All Blacks.’’
The Japan option for top-line All Blacks such as Barrett has become increasingly attractive for players and for New Zealand Rugby.
Japanese corporations run the clubs in the country’s domestic Top League competition so money is not an issue for them, particularly for marketable stars such as Barrett.
For New Zealand players Japan offers a chance to grow the bank balance and experience a different culture while knowing that a same-day flight back to New Zealand to see family is a possibility.
For NZR, Japan’s less rigorous competition – and plethora of Kiwi coaches – means they are more likely to get their prized assets back in one piece.
That could mean the likes of lock Brodie Retallick could join Barrett in Japan. Indeed, Lee said that up to four key All Blacks might head to Japan for the 2020 calendar year, when two Top League seasons are likely to be played, increasing the players’ earning potential.
‘‘You could have between two and four key All Blacks who take up that opportunity and then either retire or go north or come back,’’ Lee said.
The timing would seem right for Barrett in particular.
Although a decision to give up his All Blacks jersey for a year would not be taken lightly, particularly with Crusaders No 10 Richie Mo’unga on the rise, modern players tend to take a wholeof-life approach to their decisions.
Barrett’s impending nuptials bring to that into focus.
‘‘For him, being 26 and getting married next weekend, he’s a young guy with no kids so it could work out really nicely for him to go for a year,’’ Lee said.
The shift would also bring other benefits in terms of life experience.
Although Japan’s rugby may be less physically taxing, player agents with knowledge of the Japanese market say the corporations have other demands.
Imported players are expected to set high behavioural standards to inspire the corporation’s employees, as well as project a positive image externally.
As a result, the opportunity to experience a different country and culture is one that appeals to a huge number of players, particularly if it recharges their batteries for a return to New Zealand at a later date.
‘‘Nothing has been set in stone. I know there is French interest in Beauden as well,’’ Lee said.
‘‘We just stay close to Beauden and his management team.
‘‘He’s got significant desires to be a key All Black for a number years and achieve more at the Hurricanes so we’re confident that Beaudy will be around for a long time.’’
‘‘There’s interest in him going away for potentially one year and then coming back.’’ Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee
Beauden Barrett congratulates brother Jordie after he scored a try against South Africa last season.