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Departing All Black leaves NZ playing 'best rugby of his career'

By Tom Vinicombe

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It won’t necessarily happen overnight, but Brett Cameron’s move to Japan will surely eventually be acknowledged for the loss that it is.

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The one-test All Black signed a one-year deal with Kamaishi Seawaves earlier this year after he couldn’t lock in a Super Rugby gig with any of the NZ franchises.

Cameron was a surprise call-up for the 2018 end-of-year tour and notched up a handful of minutes against Japan after replacing Richie Mo’unga. Since then, Cameron has struggled to earn game time with the Crusaders and even found himself slipping down the pecking order with Canterbury.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.
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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.

As such, the 25-year-old moved back to his home province of Manawatu for this year’s NPC campaign and with regular opportunities in the No 10 jersey, Cameron’s play flourished. With Cameron at the helm, Manawatu progressed to the knockout stages of the Championship division but the playmaker was ruled out on the day of the semi-final, and the Turbos fell to Otago.

While Cameron’s rich form piqued the interests of a number of Super Rugby sides, Cameron had already committed to Kamaishi and will spend the formative stages of 2022 in the northeast of Japan.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, panellist Bryn Hall, a former teammate of Cameron’s at the Crusaders, has lamented the playmaker’s shift and named the former All Black as his top player of the NPC season.

“I thought Brett Cameron was outstanding for Manawatu, even though he couldn’t play in the finals, which I think was probably a little bit of the difference in that Championship [semi],” Hall said.

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“He was down in Canterbury with the Crusaders and things didn’t go his way with [him] not being able to play as much as he would’ve wanted. But look, I think his performances, more so in his running game, his ability to be able to game-manage and taking his learnings from the Crusaders and his one test with the All Blacks, I thought he was definitely the stand-out player for me.

“It’s a touch unfortunate that he’s had to go to Japan because I think he was playing the best rugby of his career and it’s unfortunate to see him go.”

Hall also travelled to Japan as a squad member on the 2018 end-of-year tour but didn’t get to take the field for the All Blacks.

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James Parsons, himself a former All Black, also anointed a Championship playmaker as his MVP of the season.

“I ended up going with Stevie Perofeta from Taranaki. He was just sensational from game one, all the way through to the final,” Parsons said. “His ability off the tee but also his ability to inject himself from the back was exceptional and really put Taranaki on a 10 and 0 run with a Championship to boot, so I think he was the best performing player in the NPC.”

Perofeta has found a permanent home for himself at fullback this year after flitting between the No 15 and No 10 jerseys over the past few seasons, and the 24-year-old has gone from strength to strength over the course of the season. While he lost hist starting position at the Blues to youngster Zarn Sullivan during Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Perofeta could enter 2022 in pole position to wrestle the role back, with Sullivan spending the bulk of the NPC sidelined due to Auckland’s Covid-enforced absence from the competition.

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