Etene Nanai-Seturo Contract Issue Settled
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 03: Etene Nanai-Seturo of New Zealand runs away to score a try against France during the 2018 New Zealand Sevens at FMG Stadium on February 3, 2018 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Warriors rugby league club have announced that they have settled the contract impasse, regarding Etene Nanai-Seturo. That means that the teen starlets future is in the 15-man game but, it also raises questions just how it reached this point?

Injunction threat over NZ7s selection

Nanai-Seturo made his debut for the NZ Sevens side last month in Sydney. But it was reported at the time that the ‘Warriors may seek a court injunction’ preventing him taking the field. While the NRL club chose not to go down that route, their contractual stance led to discussions between the parties which concluded on Friday.

Those discussions led to a media release from NZ Rugby. It states “Under the agreement, Nanai-Seturo has been released from all his obligations to the Vodafone Warriors with all terms and conditions of the release to be kept confidential.”

That appears to have the outcome decided on the future of Etene Nanai-Seturo.

A new talent on the Rise

Nanai-Seturo is an undoubted talent, having been a three-year starter on the wing and at fullback, for one of the country’s premier rugby schools – St Kentigern’s. Competing in the cauldron of Auckland’s 1A Secondary School competition, his talent had been identified earlier than most. The young man signed a ‘development contract’ with the Warriors, as a 15-year old.

Provided resources and placed into training camps, Nanai-Seturo improved his skills base. He also attracted attention of representative teams. That made his selection for the New Zealand Schools rugby side last year something of a surprise, as the policy in recent years has been to exclude those players who have committed their future to the 13-man code; current All Black Ngani Laumape was amongst the last who did both and current Melbourne Storm front-rower Nelson Asofa-Solomona the first to be affected.

It soon transpired that the now 18-year old Nanai-Seturo, had signed a new contract with New Zealand Rugby, leading to the dispute. The player reported to have wanted to resign from his Warriors commitments, though the manner in which it was handled, is what it is of concern.

What was clear, was the talent shown. At the Hamilton leg of the HSBC Sevens Series, he displayed both a calmness under pressure, plus one damaging fend – see below.

Etene Nanai-Seturo contractual matter settled

Although this matter has been settled; the terms haven’t been disclosed but it seems reasonable to infer that the Warriors have received some financial compensation for their investment in Nanai-Seturo’s development. It should serve as a wake-up call to authorities about the practice of talented youngsters being ‘snapped up’ on professional contracts, before they’re legally able to drive a car.

The lure of the NRL is obvious; training in a professional environment, vocation training, and the high-profile Under 20 competition played as the curtain-raiser to the First Grade matches. All things that NZ Rugby can’t or won’t offer, that provide a terrific incentive to choose league at an early age. Even considering this fact: the rate of players who then go on to play even 20 First Grade games, is relatively low. The rewards can be so much more attractive than rugby for some.

This isn’t to say that rugby union is blameless as in the face of competition for talent. Their own practices could also be considered dubious. Primarily, encouraging Etene Nanai-Seturo to sign with them while knowing his situation with the Warriors could be a case in point. Called “disrespectful” by the Warriors at the time, it seemed conceited from the outside.

However, now Nanai-Seturo can move forward with his career, fortunate in many respects that he is able to do so with his choice. Its not hard for Last Word on Rugby to believe that some of the big Australian NRL clubs – Brisbane, Sydney City, or Melbourne – wouldn’t be quite as understanding. And in all reality, the likelihood is another case could have proceeded to face the legal system.

That truth in itself, should be a cautionary warning to all involved.

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