Ma'a Nonu goes through a training drill at Logan Park
yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Ma'a Nonu is here, he is ready and what happened before
and how he got here, according to him, is history.
Nonu, the 76-test All Black midfield back, officially joined
the Highlanders fulltime this week and is fit and available
for the warm-up game against the Crusaders tomorrow afternoon
Nonu said although it was very early days with the franchise
and the city of Dunedin in general, he was enjoying it so
''It's not been too bad. We've had a couple of hard trainings
- really hard, actually - but it is a good environment,''
''There were a few factors in coming down here. I talked
about that last year when I signed to come down here and I
don't really want to talk about that.
''I'm here now and looking forward to the challenge.
''The first question I've got is to get a starting spot
myself, really. There are good midfielders here with the
likes of [Shaun] Treeby and Phil Burleigh.''
He might play it down, but Nonu is a key for the Highlanders.
You do not play 76 tests for your country by being a
passenger. His strong running and hard-hitting defence will
be assets to his new team.
He was a star in the Hurricanes for many years before he ran
afoul of a new regime.
That led to a trip to the Blues for one year, which ended
under a cloud with accusations of handshakes and reneged
But as far as Nonu is concerned, that is water under the
bridge. It is the now and the future for Nonu to concern
''The Highlanders have had a great season over the last two
years. Now, it is a chance to try and add something to the
Highlanders and do my best.
''There have been a few All Blacks in this side, a few young
players who have played well. Lima Sopoaga has played well,
Kade Poki has been playing well on the wings, Buxton
[Popoali'i] is a good player.''
Nonu has had the surfboard out during his break when he was
holidaying in theNorth Island but said a shark warning has
kept him awayfrom St Clair Beach so far.
Sharks and surf will now have to wait. Break is over and it
is time to concentrate on rugby and listening to head coach
''I've played a few games when Jamie was coaching in
Wellington but that was a long time ago.
''I've known him for quite a long time. He is hard-nosed,
really, a ruthless coach, who knows what he wants and gets
the best out of the players. And that's vice versa, really.
They really want to play for him.
''I'll take it day by day, really, and see how it all
unfolds. I want to be fit, and try and play my best.''
Nonu is at the point in his career - he turns 31 in May -
when heading overseas may be at the back of his mind.
He spent a short period in Japan after the 2011 Rugby World
Cup and there were whispers he may head there again within
the next year or two.
But Nonu played a straight bat to those questions yesterday.
''I'm not looking too far ahead of me. I'm just going to
concentrate on what is ahead of me here.''
Coach Joseph said yesterday Nonu was likely to start in the
pre-season match in Oamaru, pairing up with Phil Burleigh in