Jordie Barrett is expected to extend his stay in New Zealand later this week, but his contract extension comes with an unprecedented twist.
That opens up the possibility of a move north to the Blues, who are understood to have made a significantly heftier financial offer than the Hurricanes for the 22-year-old in a bid to pair him up with his older brother, Beauden, who has re-located from Wellington to Auckland on a four-year deal.
However, Beauden will play, at most, only half of the Super Rugby campaign in 2020, with his extensive break in the first year of his tenure in the City of Sails to be followed by an option to take a sabbatical at some point in the following three years of his contract.
Many are anticipating the older Barrett to utilise his sabbatical clause during his second year with the Blues in 2021, but the option for Jordie to switch sides has been made available in case Beauden opts to play for the Auckland franchise in two years’ time.
Jordie has previously stated his desire to play alongside his brother in the backline, with that being a major factor in his decision to sign with the Hurricanes in 2017, despite interest from the Crusaders – who brother and All Blacks teammate Scott plays for – after having debuted in the Mitre 10 Cup with Canterbury the year beforehand.
Should Beauden choose to trigger his sabbatical clause in 2021, then it is likely that Jordie would stay in the capital with the Hurricanes, although the option to move to other franchises would still be available.
With the 10-test All Black off-contract at the end of this year, his availability has reportedly piqued the interest of not just the Hurricanes and Blues, but also the Crusaders and Highlanders.
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After having lost out to the Hurricanes on the younger Barrett’s services two years ago, the Crusaders would be eager for him to return to the Garden City and add some experience in the midfield following the departure of Ryan Crotty to Japan.
Playing alongside brother Scott and pairing up in the centres with All Blacks teammate Jack Goodhue could have some appeal for Jordie, although the emergence and positional versatility of Braydon Ennor means the Crusaders may already have their future midfield duo within their ranks.
The Highlanders, meanwhile, are also believed to have made a play for the in-demand youngster, with the Dunedin franchise desperate to fill the void left by fullback and club legend Ben Smith, who will join Top 14 club Pau at the end of this year.
Smith is one of at least 12 key players in Aaron Mauger’s squad who are leaving at the end of this year, with fellow All Blacks Waisake Naholo, Liam Squire, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Whitelock, Tyrel Lomax and Elliot Dixon among those to have played their last home match under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium.
A player of Barrett’s quality would be a warmly welcomed addition to the franchise as they look to offset this mass exodus of talent, but whether or not he has an affinity to play for the southerners is another question.
Barrett would already have a stranglehold on both the fullback and centre positions at the Hurricanes, with Northampton’s acquisition of midfielder Matt Proctor opening a berth in the No 13 jersey.
Such flexibility regarding his playing position would be a key selling point for the Hurricanes as they look to keep ahold of their star man through to the end of 2021.
While Barrett’s future beyond 2020 is still up in the air, one thing is certain – he will remain a Hurricane, for next season at least.
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