By Patrick McKendry, NZ Herald
Once Beauden Barrett decided that he wanted to live full-time in Auckland with wife Hannah, who lives and works in the city, the decision to leave the Hurricanes for the Blues became more straightforward, but that didn’t make it any easier.
In fact, after beginning talks with the Blues about six weeks ago, he agonised on his decision and had many conversations, including with his dad, Kevin, or “Smiley”, as the former Hurricanes loose forward is more commonly known.
The All Blacks No 10 has been at the Hurricanes for eight years – 125 games – and was a big part of their maiden Super Rugby championship win in 2016, but after agreeing to re-commit to New Zealand Rugby for another four years, commuting to Wellington for that long was out of the question.
“It wasn’t an easy call at all,” Barrett, 28, said. “It’s been a tough two months while trying to do my best and focus on the Hurricanes during the recent competition. In the back of your mind there’s always these contractual things you have to deal with. You try to put that aside when it comes to training and playing.”
The Herald revealed four weeks ago that the Blues were in serious talks to lure Barrett north to fill what for them has been a problem position since the departure of Carlos Spencer 14 years ago.
That they have managed to do so is a huge boost because once Barrett has a break after the World Cup and is available mid-way through the 2020 Super Rugby season, he will provide sorely-needed quality and direction in the No 10 jersey. The two-time world player of the year could also help convince others to join him at a franchise that last won a title in 2003 and finished 13th this year.
Significantly, Barrett’s brother Jordie is also off contract this year. It’s understood the Blues have put in an offer to take him, too, but the Highlanders are also in the market as they seek to fill the departure of Ben Smith.
Barrett said of Jordie: “He’s going through his contractual stuff at the moment. I’m not too sure where that’s at. He’ll make a call when he’s ready.”
In an interview with Newstalk ZB, Smiley Barrett said: “Jordie has a tough decision to make too. That was why he moved to the Hurricanes, to play with Beauden, so he has a tough couple of weeks ahead of him.”
Should Jordie move to the Blues too, the Hurricanes’ displeasure can only be imagined because their media statement on Beauden’s departure made clear their disappointment and behind the scenes there is a frustration that NZ Rugby smoothed the way a little too much for Beauden to leave.
Beauden said he had received offers from overseas clubs at the start of the year, but felt he still had much to offer in New Zealand and that is music to the ears of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
“It was a big decision for him to leave the Hurricanes, no doubt about that,” Hansen said. “It was one that I would suggest he spent a lot of sleepless nights over because he’s a loyal guy and a lot of people might challenge that loyalty but he has to do what’s right for him and his family and I think that’s what he’s done.”
Barrett said he hoped Hurricanes’ fans would understand why he is leaving. “I grew up dreaming of being a Hurricane and I’m so proud of playing the number of games I have for them. Circumstances change, people grow older and move on to different jobs … hopefully a lot of the Canes fans will understand the big picture.”
As for potentially facing the Hurricanes next year, he said: “That will be an interesting one. There will be plenty of banter. The boys are already talking about what they’re going to do and so on. So is [Blues wing] Rieko [Ioane] and a few of the others. We’ll worry about that when we come to it, but it will probably be a bit emotional.”
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