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The battle for talent - the Etene Nanai saga

By Online Editors

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New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the NRL club New Zealand Warriors are in a contract war over who has rights to one of the best prospects seen in a generation – Etene Nanai-Seturo. He has been described as a stronger version of Kalyn Ponga, a ‘can’t-miss’ prospect in either code.


Nanai-Seturo grew up playing league but an opportunity to play 1st XV rugby with St Kentigern College changed his trajectory. The younger cousin of NRL superstar Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, also a former schoolboy rugby star, quickly became a sensation for St Kentigern’s 1st XV in rugby at just 15-years-old.

Etene Nanai

Etene Nanai, a 15 y.o. who plays for St Kents 1st XV in Auckland is insane.. reminds me of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck a lil bit. Just put this mix together with footage from Auckland Rugby 1st XV TV and had to share. This left foot step is killer #leftfordead

Posted by Waterboy Rugby on Friday, 4 September 2015

In that year, the Warriors tabled a five-year contract to the minor – a common occurrence in the ‘race to the bottom’ to secure talent in the NRL. Nanai continued playing rugby for his school, before playing for the Chiefs under-18s and the New Zealand Schoolboys last year.

The legalities of that contract are now at the centre of a battle between New Zealand Rugby and the Warriors.

Last year Nanai’s lawyer sent a letter of resignation to the club on his behalf, which the Warriors believe is invalid.  The Warriors are furious at the situation and threatening legal action in order to stop Nanai playing for the New Zealand Sevens team, where he played in Sydney.

Warriors CEO Cameron George explained before the Sydney Sevens to NZME he would be exhausting all avenues.


“I don’t care who it is,” said George.

“I don’t care if it is New Zealand Rugby … it does not worry me in the slightest. We will do what we believe is right. We are not going to get pushed around by anyone, especially in this kind of situation.

“We have got an obligation to look after the interests and rights of the Warriors, which we will do.”

The case is not a good look for either party and the agents involved. Despite having a contract with league agent Stan Martin, Nanai reportedly also has the services of rugby agent Simon Porter, complicating the matters further.


“He is still contracted to me for league and rugby,” Martin told Newshub.

“As far as playing for New Zealand Sevens is concerned, that’s an issue for the Warriors. I can’t stop him from playing rugby and as his agent, I wouldn’t.”

Martin, however, admitted he has not heard from any rugby representative.

“Etene looks and appears to want to play rugby and has gone down that path. Rugby is still yet to talk to the Warriors and myself, so it’s a wait and see.

The Warriors attempted to upgrade the youngster on a deal worth an estimated $500,000 for three years to keep him at the club. He declined, leaving the Warriors to take up a team option in the original deal, in their favour, until season 2020.

Stan Martin seems to be on the outer with Nanai-Seturo. Martin partnered with Nanai-Seturo after he joined the Warriors, but his contract states he is his agent regardless of which code he plays which questions the involvement of Porter.

Porter’s agency Essentially is one the biggest in the rugby world, at one point handling the affairs of around 80% of the All Blacks squad. To say that they have strong ties to the NZRU is an understatement. Their accreditation as agents in rugby is decided by the Players Association, which is funded by the NZRU.

Porter has declined to comment to the media on the case, although New Zealand Rugby general manager rugby Neil Sorenson told Devlin Radio Sport that they have sought their own advice on the matter.

“Our advice, when we took him on, was that he was actually free to play,” Sorenson said.

“If we are told he isn’t free to play, then he won’t be part of the rugby environment.

“We are definitely not walking all over anybody. What needs sorting here is that Etene and his lawyers and his managers and his people need to sort out once and for all what contracts he’s signed and where.

“It is up to him and his team. They need to sort that really quickly. We would welcome him if he was available. They are just sorting through that now.

“It will all be sorted out in a couple of days. He will either be available for other sports or he has to stick with the Warriors. Whichever way that goes we will absolutely be comfortable with that.”






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