Highlanders replace Josh Ioane with returning cult hero Marty Banks
Banks has re-joined the Highlanders for a third stint after having already played for the side between 2015 and 2017, and then again in 2019.
During first two spells with the Dunedin-based franchise, Banks forged a cult hero reputation after landing the match-sealing drop goal in the 2015 Super Rugby final and slotting the match-winning penalty to defeat the British and Irish Lions in 2017.
Confirmation of the 31-year-old’s return to the Highlanders comes a day after the franchise announced it had released Ioane a year early from his contract.
It has since been announced that the one-test All Blacks playmaker, who was ironically mentored by Banks during his sophomore Super Rugby campaign two years ago, has joined the Chiefs on a one-year deal.
Highlanders head coach Tony Brown said Banks acts as a perfect replacement for Ioane due to his leadership and vast experience that has seen him play for teams in New Zealand, Japan, Italy and Russia.
“With Josh departing, we were looking for an experienced player, in addition to Mitch Hunt, who could kick goals and lead us around the park,” Brown said via a statement.
“We, of course, were well aware of Marty’s abilities, and his early round NPC performances demonstrated that he still has the ability to perform the key pivot role.”
Banks, who has returned to New Zealand to play for Southland after having previously played for the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan, added that he was excited to return and add to his 39 appearances for the side.
“I returned from Japan with the hope that maybe I could pick up a Super Rugby contract and I am stoked that Brownie still has faith in me to do the job,” he said.
“I believe I am at a pretty good stage in my career. I know my own game well and hopefully I have enough experience to be able to make a real contribution to the way the Highlanders play and the squad in general.”
“I can’t wait to get back under the roof in Dunedin. I’ve always enjoyed the place and the fans, so roll on 2022.”
Banks becomes the first signing for the Highlanders during the current off-season, which is much-needed for the franchise, which has already lost seven players who featured in this year’s squad.
The Highlanders were confirmed on Monday as one of 12 teams set to compete in the rebranded Super Rugby Pacific, which features the 10 exisiting Super Rugby franchises from New Zealand and Australia, as well as Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua.
The revamped competition is scheduled to kick-off next February.
Highlanders 2021-22 transfers
In: Marty Banks (Southland)
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now