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The three reasons why a Wallabies legend believes TJ Perenara would be a success in the NRL

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

TJ Perenara has been backed by a Wallabies legend to make a successful transition to rugby league following a shock report that the All Blacks halfback is in talks to move to the NRL.


1 News revealed on Thursday that Perenara, who is off-contract with New Zealand Rugby [NZR] this year, is considering a shift to the Sydney Roosters to help answer the club’s shortage of hookers.

The Roosters are short on options at No 9 following the retirement of long-serving dummy half Jake Friend and it’s understood that head coach Trent Robinson has reached out to Perenara’s agent, Warren Alcock, to enquire about the 29-year-old’s services.

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The potential move has drawn praise from former Wallabies fullback Matt Burke, who told the Big Sports Breakfast that he believes Perenara would be a great success in the NRL.

“He’s one of the toughest blokes going around,” the 81-test international said. “Whenever you watch the history in those games involving the All Blacks, he is… one, he’s got a great pass. Two, he’s just tenacious. Three, he’s got that bit of mongrel about him.

“He was always a really difficult player to play against and when you watch him run around the park there, he organises like a genius, like a classic No 9 in union or a No 9 in rugby league. I reckon he’ll make the switch and do it really well.”

Burke added that Perenara’s age and his standing as New Zealand’s second-ranked halfback behind Aaron Smith could be decisive factors in his decision to crossover to league.


His comments come after former All Blacks wing Sir John Kirwan said on The Breakdown earlier this week that Perenara’s contract with NZR shouldn’t be extended beyond this year as he believed the national union should instead look to younger players.

“He’s getting on a bit, he’s 29. He’s had a season over in Japan,” Burke told the Big Sports Breakfast.

“There was talk last night, I was watching with the old legend, Sir John Kirwan, saying, ‘Maybe I’d just let him go now, bring some of the younger guys through, looking at France [World Cup] in 2023′.

“You get to the stage where you need a succession plan, and teams and players and countries, coaches, are thinking about bringing that next generation through.


“Do you keep him on there? He could play All Blacks later in the year, no doubt about it. There is another guy there called Aaron Smith before him.”

Perenara is currently playing in Japan’s Top League for NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes on a sabbatical deal.

Upon the announcement of his temporary move last October, Perenara said his sojourn in Japan “doesn’t mean it’s the end for me” in New Zealand.

Revelations of Perenara’s potential move to the Roosters has cast doubt on that promise, though, but Burke said Robinson’s “out-of-the-box thinking” thinking to recruit from outside of rugby league is “quite incredible”.

Bringing the 69-test All Black to the Bondi-based club wouldn’t be the first time Robinson has sought playing and coaching personnel from rugby union.

Last year, former All Blacks star and two-time NRL champion Sonny Bill Williams was loaned by the Roosters from the Toronto Wolfpack to help alleviate an injury crisis at the backend of last season.

Williams, who was a key figure in Sydney’s run to the 2013 NRL Premiership and is a close friend of Perenara’s, is now part of the club’s off-field staff, as is former France rugby union playmaker Freddie Michalak.

The Roosters also called upon former Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika during last year’s campaign, and the 54-year-old is set to coach Lebanon at the Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom later this year.

“This is what I like about Trent Robinson as well, he’s just got this out-of-the-box-type thinking… what an option, if that was the case that he brings someone like Perenara through, then it would be quite incredible,” Burke said.

“I was at uni with Trent, we both studied sports science together back in the day. He went on to do some other stuff in between, the teaching then fell into the coaching side of it, but I just love the way he approaches things – it doesn’t have to be straight down the line black and white.

“He’s always looking for an angle, like bringing Michael Cheika in. We’re not just talking about union blokes in, it’s bringing other people in who can benefit the team and using outside influences to make your team better. It’s brilliant.”

The Roosters currently sit in second place on the NRL standings with four wins from five matches ahead of Friday’s blockbuster clash with the reigning champions Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

Perenara’s Red Hurricanes, meanwhile, have the week off before they enter the second round of the Top League play-offs where they will play the Honda Heat in Nagoya next Sunday.

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