While there were plenty of pull factors behind Samu Kerevi’s move to Japan, it still wasn’t an easy decision for the Wallabies midfielder to make.
A move to Asia would see him leaving behind a grandfather in Brisbane, a partner in Auckland, and a team that had nurtured him to becoming one of the best centres in the game.
It’s the latter factor that Kerevi probably struggled with the most.
Changing clubs wouldn’t limit his ability to visit his loved ones but it would obviously prevent him from turning out for the Reds or the Wallabies on a weekly basis.
“The biggest driving force was: do I stay in Queensland and be part of the Wallabies?” Kerevi told RugbyPass.
“Because I want to be the best centre in the world.”
Kerevi sits alongside those players at the precipice of the world but there’s no clear-cut number one.
— Tom Vinicombe (@TomVinicombe) March 19, 2020
While he initially feared he may lose ground to his competition were he to move, those fears quickly subsided.
“When I got to Japan, I realised that ambition doesn’t stop,” Kerevi said.
“I still want to be the best in my position, I still want to be the best in the comp.
“I’m going to put my best foot forward and when I finish my time here, I want them to say I’m one of the best centres to come to Suntory.
“They’re tough goals and something that I’ve gotta keep working on every day but just because I’m here, it’s not a holiday for me. I still want to be the best to play this game.”
Kerevi is currently on a three-year contract with Suntory Sungoliath and while he won’t be making any decisions about the future anytime soon, a return to Australia could be on the cards.
“A lot of conversations I’ve had with Australia, they’ve said they’ll talk to me early but I’m probably going to wait until the third year and see from there,” Kerevi said.
“This is sordid stuff… and there’s a whole lot more of it out there, stinking the place out”
– @JLyall93 has had enough of the keyboard warriors and the outright malevolence of their online savaging of players ???https://t.co/wabME4BhRh
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 24, 2020
“The Wallabies jersey has always been in my heart. It’s something I always want to aspire to. I just don’t know what the future holds at the moment, I’m just trying to focus on day-to-day.”
There’s also the very real chance that if Kerevi returns to Australia, he may not be the top dog for the Reds anymore, let alone for the national side.
Jordan Petaia debuted at the World Cup and looks every inch a star in the making – but his past two seasons of Super Rugby have been curtailed by injury.
This year, Hunter Paisami had to step into the Reds midfield when Petaia was ruled out of action.
In two more years, that pairing could be unstoppable.
Factor in the likes of James O’Connor and Tevita Kuridrani, who are still just in their late twenties, and developing Brumbies centre Irae Simone, amongst others, and there will be plenty of competition for Wallabies spots regardless of whether Kerevi returns.
“Even though we’ve had those conversations [about returning to Australia], the young guys coming through are going to make their own way,” said Kerevi.
“Those guys are the next generation. Why try get me back when you’ve got them?
“I want Jordan Petaia and Hunter Paisami to take over at Queensland, take over Timmy Horan’s legacy.
“Even though I’ll always think my time is never past and I want to dominate that Reds jersey, those guys have the right to dominate and make their own legacies at Queensland.”
And while there isn’t any bad blood between Samu Kerevi and Rugby Australia, RA probably could have done a bit more to keep the midfielder in the country.
“I knocked back a lot of offers over the years and I could’ve doubled or tripled my pay but I didn’t because I had so much loyalty for Queensland and the Wallabies,” Kerevi said.
“At the time of my [new] contract negotiations, I wasn’t really getting a lot of love from that side to stay in Australia.
“It was there, but it was only when I said I was actually going that they started scrambling.”
That small niggle aside, Kerevi has no complaints about his time in Australia: “Everything else was awesome.”
Whether the likes of Jordan Petaia and Hunter Paisami crack on, Australian rugby has still lost one of its best performers from recent times and Samu Kerevi’s absence will be felt.
If Kerevi does return to Queensland after his Japanese sojourn, even if he’s not quite as dominant force as he was in 2019, it will be a huge boon for the region.
With so many players heading off-shore to wind down, it would be a fantastic sight to see one of Brisbane’s favourite sons returning to complete his playing career where it all began.
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