Blues secure the future with Rieko Ioane and Akira Ioane re-signing

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Blues secure the future with Rieko Ioane and Akira Ioane re-signing
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 19: Rieko Ioane of the Blues gets away from Mitchell Drummond of Crusaders during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Crusaders at Eden Park on May 19, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

Any team that can look into the future, securing the signatures of players long-term, can be satisfied with their recruitment. If two key players re-signed are both International quality; in Rieko Ioane and his brother Akira, then it is an even better outcome.

And crucially, if one of those players is an undoubted, a test-quality All Blacks winger, a leading try scorer and has a huge profile then, the Blues Super Rugby management can be more than pleased with themselves after capturing the services of Rieko Iaone until 2022.

Re-signing both of the Ioane brothers is a coup; as each would command high dollar contracts in Europe. They were each coveted by other Super Rugby franchises too, so to secure their futures with the Blues franchise, will support efforts to sign other stars – and may assist to return the Blues back to the ‘top table’ of the Super Rugby 2019 competition.

The future has to now look brighter, for the challenge side. Challenged by not reaching the Super Rugby semifinals since 2011. If these current stars can improve the side’s fortunes in the future, then it a wise investment.

Blues secure the future with Rieko Ioane and Akira Ioane re-signing

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) proudly announced that they had secured the key signatures of All Blacks, Blues and Auckland Rugby brothers, Rieko and Akira Ioane, who have both signed long-term contracts with the national body, their Blues club, and the Auckland province.

From the prepared media release, the 21-year old Rieko Ioane was quoted as saying he was ‘hugely excited’ to be recommitting to New Zealand. “I feel incredibly privileged to get the opportunity to play my rugby here for another four years. I want to give it my best shot at serving the black jersey and, hopefully, I’ll get the chance to play at the Rugby World Cup in the future. That’s a huge motivator for me,” he said.

His signature until 2022, and that of his talented brother until 2021 will serve the Blues Super Rugby franchise well. The two star players will add to the signing of Ma’a Nonu in 2019, the services of Sonny Bill Williams and many other talented NZ Rugby players in Auckland. Plus, their signatures will be a motivation for others to ‘stay in the country’ rather than take money on offer from Europe or Japan.

Akira Ioane and Rieko Ioane of the All Blacks walk in after warm up ahead of the Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park on July 8, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

An all too easy option, the two Ioane brothers should be commended for staying loyal. Although, the signature of Rieko Ioane must likely make him the youngest ‘million dollar’ All Black – if the franchise, province, and national union, had met the market value of such a talented player.

Blues head coach Tana Umaga added, “Rieko is an outstanding talent who works very hard at the game and is also willing to learn. He shows a level of maturity that belies his young age and this, as well as his passion for the club and region, makes him a leader of our young group.”

Rieko Ioane and older brother Akira look to bright futures at the Blues

In the media notes, it is stated that loose forward Akira had a breakout year in 2015, making his Blues debut, and also debuted alongside Rieko in the Maori All Blacks and for Auckland. He played for the All Blacks against a French XV last year and started every Super Rugby game for the Blues in the 2018 season.

“Akira was our ‘go to’ player in the forwards this year and yet he is still so young,” said Umaga. “He’s working hard to improve his game and will become a key leader in the years to come. He has such passion for our club and for Auckland – with our squad this year selecting him as the Players-Player of the Year.”

The younger Rieko Ioane was the key signing, however, with his high profile and game-breaking ability. Provided he is able to meet his potential and stay injury free, 2019 will help prepare the young man for his first Rugby World Cup.

And then, the provincial hopes of Auckland will rest on the broad shoulders of Akira. The power-player, his learning-curve is trending upward; which is a barometer for any future wearing All Black. That is not a guarantee, but re-signing for the Blues long-term means that he can look at national honours over a long period; rather than stress overtaking the number eight jersey from Kieran Read or Luke Whitelock [immediately].

The signatures are only one part of the contract. Performance is the second important element, one which the Blues have failed to provide in many, many seasons. The change in the 2019 coaching group – with Leon MacDonald and Tom Coventry joining Umaga – will be another test of how the franchise can learn to adapt in the cut-throat world of Super Rugby.

Having Rieko Ioane and Akira re-signed, will certainly boost that franchises odds in 2019.

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Boardroom changes at the Blues

While the positives taken from securing the services of Rieko Ioane and his brother Akira are positives, in the back-office, the changes have been in both positive in administration and governance.

In August, New Zealand Rugby and the Blues agreed on a new governance structure, that was this week underlined by the appointment of several NZR endorsed names. One of those being former Auckland and All Blacks coach, John Hart. He joins Richard Dellabarca and Sam Lotu-liga, to the full Blues Super Rugby board.

It continues the input from NZR, as the national body had taken a 40 percent partnership interest in the Auckland-based Super Rugby club, following an independent review of the club’s governance structure. This is relative to the ongoing poor return from the Blues in Super Rugby standings. Whilst not entirely at the boards doing, the perceived need for change, is where John Hart and others can use their experiences as Directors and administrators, to appraise the operations and the Blues franchises aspirations.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said it was important that NZR’s representatives on the Blues Board had proven experience in rugby, business and strong connections to the Auckland region. “We are pleased that John, Richard and Sam are available to represent NZR’s partnership interest in the Blues Super Rugby club”.

And while Tew – and all fans of Super Rugby – wish that the Blues organization can be fine-tuned, it is as much up to the players on the field, as it is on the administrators and management, to turn the tide.

John Hart will bring a harsh analysis, with his astute business sense, while knowing that the Auckland and national fan base will all agree that it is ‘in the national interests’ to redeem the fortunes of the Blues franchise – with successful player signings [see above] and good management.

If the re-signing of current stars Rieko Ioane and brother Akira can improve the side’s fortunes in the future, then it a wise investment.

 

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