Why Jordie Barrett turned down the Crusaders: 'Sitting down in the room with him was like walking down to the principal's office'
When it came time for Jordie Barrett to make a decision about where he wanted to play Super Rugby, it’s fair to say that the talented Taranaki-man could have picked any side in New Zealand and been welcomed with open arms.
Off the back of some excellent performances for the New Zealand Under 20 side in 2016 and half a season of Mitre 10 Cup, Barrett was a hot product. Already, the world had seen what older brother Beauden was capable of and the rumours were that Jordie was an even more promising talent.
The Chiefs and Crusaders chased Barrett’s signature hard but it was the Hurricanes who won out in the end – despite Barrett enjoying a stellar season playing alongside brother Scott at Canterbury. Canterbury head honcho Scott Robertson had also been Barrett’s coach with the Under 20s but that wasn’t enough to keep the up-and-coming talent in Christchurch.
It did make the youngest Barrett brother’s decision incredibly difficult, however.
“I’d just finished the season playing with Scott in the Mitre 10 Cup with Canterbury and I’d enjoyed that massively so it was bloody hard telling him that I wanted to go play for the Canes,” Barrett told RugbyPass.
“But now that I think about it, Razor was actually the toughest conversation. Sitting down in the room with him was like walking down to the principal’s office and telling him I’d done something wrong but in the end, it was just a decision I made and the reason it was so hard is because we had such a good relationship.
“He taught me so much through the couple of years that I’d been down in Canterbury and the hard thing about going back to Wellington was I knew certain skills that Razor had, I was going to lose in that way. In saying that, I knew I was going up to some good coaches with Boydie [Former Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd] and John Plumtree and a lot of good players in Wellington.
“There were a couple of other reasons behind it. I was 19 at the stage and, to be honest, I was kind of still fanboying the Hurricanes. They’re the team I grew up supporting my whole life and if I’d known at 10 years old that I would have the opportunity to play for the Canes, I would have taken it just like that.
Playing for the Hurricanes would also give Barrett the opportunity to link up with Beauden while being based in Wellington would mean Barrett was closer to the family in Taranaki.
“It’s a little bit closer to home. I enjoy, when I’ve got a couple of days off, driving back up to the Naki to the farm and spending some time at home so that was another big reason for it.”
Of course, the Taranaki region has been aligned with the Chiefs since 2013, not the Hurricanes – but that change of allegiances hasn’t quite been adopted by the slightly older locals.
“It’s a bit bizarre,” Barrett admitted regarding Taranaki’s new ties. “When I was a wee ticker, everyone was running around in Hurricanes shorts and Hurricanes jerseys but now it’s a different generation. All the young kids are running around in Chiefs jerseys and you feel like you’re not at home anymore.
“There’s a good number still supporting the Canes – the loyal ones,” Barrett joked.
Only a select group of men get the chance to don the #AllBlacks' 11 &10 jerseys – fewer still get the chance to wear both.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 21, 2020
“I think at the start, when it was fresh, there was a wee bit of conflict, but I think it’s long enough down the track now that people just got used to it. Especially the way Super Rugby’s going, nowadays you’ve got people from all different provinces. It doesn’t seem to worry people too much anymore – normally only in the weeks where two franchises play each other.”
Barrett inked a new contract with New Zealand Rugby last year that will keep him in the country until the next World Cup in 2023 but had the option to part ways with the Hurricanes following this year’s Super Rugby season.
“Last year when, there was still a little bit of uncertainty when I signed, just with Scott being in Christchurch and Beaudie in Auckland,” Barrett said. “I just wanted to give myself flexibility to, I guess, do what I wanted if I had a change of heart and by having that clause in my contract, it allows me that.
“With this COVID thing going on, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next year, what the competition is going to look like, so it just gives you a bit of room to move.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll put any less into the Hurricanes, where I’m playing at the moment, it just gives me that flexibility at the back end.”
That out-clause hasn’t amounted to much, however, with one of Super Rugby Aotearoa’s players of the season choosing to re-commit to the Hurricanes just last week.
Brother Beauden, of course, won’t be playing for the Blues next season. Instead, the former World Rugby Player of the Year will be representing Suntory Sungoliath in Japan. Jordie never gave any serious thought to saying farewell to New Zealand’s shores at this early stage of his career, however.
“Obviously there’s a lot of money overseas and people have different priorities. I just thought, I was 22 years old last year, so it wasn’t a priority for me at this stage and I wanted to stay in New Zealand.”
The 23-year-old is growing with every game and has plenty to offer New Zealand rugby. The best is certainly still to come from the young utility back. The All Blacks will be better for it and, now that his medium-term future is committed to the Hurricanes, the people of Wellington will still be blessed with one Barret in their midst.
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