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The silver lining of a move to the Crusaders for Levi Aumua

By Hamish Bidwell
Levi Aumua of New Zealand waves to the fans during the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and New Zealand All Blacks XV at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 13, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

I’d do the same thing in Levi Aumua’s situation.

I suspect most of us would.

If the Moana Pasifika midfield back is to become a Crusader, then good luck to him.


I also can’t be critical of Aaron Mauger if, as has been reported, family reasons have forced him to step down as Moana Pasifika head coach.

These are individual, justifiable decisions of which I have no problem.

But they hardly augur well for Moana Pasifika, do they?

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This is a franchise Super Rugby Pacific needs. It is a vehicle to keep Pasifika players out of Japan and Europe and into elite professional rugby in their own backyard, or near enough.

Now, I’d base the team in Nuku’alofa or Apia, not least because it would provide a competitive advantage, as evidenced by the Drua’s occasional deeds in Fiji.

Potentially losing Aumua’s services doesn’t help Moana Pasifika. Just as losing Mauger doesn’t either, even if it hopefully heralds an opportunity for assistant coach Filo Tiatia to get an overdue crack at a top job.

Aumua has the makings of an All Black. At 28, you doubt he’ll ever have a long career in the black jersey, but being a Crusader at least gives him the best opportunity to make it a reality.


But does it also cast Moana Pasifika in the role of the stepping stone? The team for provincial players, such as Tasman’s Aumua, to show their preparedness for New Zealand’s official Super sides?

Mauger has been quoted as saying this is not what Moana Pasifika was designed for, while also recognising what a move to the Crusaders would mean for Aumua himself.

That’s probably the best way to sum up this situation.

People like me can waffle on all we like, but what am I doing to improve Moana Pasifika’s lot and to make them the franchise of choice for aspiring players? Nothing.

Not one damn thing.

I’m moaning. I’m saying someone – usually New Zealand Rugby – has to do better, but what am I actually doing to help?


New Zealand Rugby, in this instance, have conjured a franchise out of nothing. They’ve given players and coaches and fans an opportunity that didn’t previously exist.

Now, it’s maybe not how I’d do it, but then I’m a media dribbler and not an administrator.

If a player, such as Aumua, uses that opportunity to make the All Blacks XV, as he did last year, and progress to the Crusaders and maybe the full All Blacks side, then doesn’t that partly show the worth of the exercise?

Aumua would arguably still be an inconsistent Mako without the exposure and expertise Moana Pasifika afforded him.

By broadening the base of New Zealand’s Super Rugby pyramid, a player now might be destined for the top who previously wasn’t.

Maybe the next player of Aumua’s ilk won’t jump ship. Maybe they’ll value the chance Moana Pasifika took on them and seek to make further progress from within  that franchise.

Rather than lament what becomes of Moana Pasifika in Aumua’s absence, we could just as easily celebrate that the franchise is at least working as a development tool.


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