Long wait til Easter treats, for Beauden Barrett Blues first cap

Long wait til Easter treats, for Beauden Barrett Blues first cap
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 10: Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes arrives for the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Hurricanes at Eden Park on May 10, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Blues fans were overjoyed by the news last year of a star signing for 2020. However, a Beauden Barrett Blues first cap may not come until April – a long wait for what might be some Easter treats will test some supporters resolve. And by then…..it could be too late.

Not to be overly skeptical, yet the conditions that came with the All Blacks signing means a Beauden Barrett blue coloured jersey will not be worn until Round 11. Even counting on a bye round, that is an extremely long wait.

That exact date is still to be determined by (1) the player, (2) the Blues franchise management, and (3) by New Zealand Rugby player representatives. The conditions, clauses, and the negotiations involved in securing such a big name signing, ultimately did come with some preclusions.

Specifics may still be confidential, but, it is fair to say that the playmaker is currently taking an extended break from rugby. Checking his Instagram account, his last posts were from Malaysia – not from a Blues preseason training pitch.

When he and his partner do return to Auckland, he might look to maintain his fitness with the squad but, that is not likely to see any contact. Reports in various media conclude he won’t appear for the Blues until mid-April. Further, Barrett has the option of taking a separate sabbatical at a later date.

That is a long wait. If Easter does roll around, then seeing Barrett in a Blues jersey could be a treat worth the wait.

Long wait til Easter treats, for Beauden Barrett Blues first cap

On a positive front, the name association is only going to bring benefits. The more Barrett’s name is associated with the franchise, the more fans will anticipate his time ‘up North’. New to the club, the former Hurricanes player can only be positive; in terms of skills, leadership, and in his game management.

His marketability is never in doubt. On the front page of the Blues website. External advertising seems to be dominated by the player’s face wearing a team kit.

The hope is that when he finally runs out onto Eden Park, the side will be established. So fitting in what could be an unknown Beauden Barrett Blues role, might be the one element that head coach Leon MacDonald can only face closer to the date.

If that does come by Rounds 10, 11, or later, how the team is faring in the New Zealand conference might very well be out of Barrett’s control. He is used to being in the ‘Canes high performing group – unused to losing local derby matches. Possibly, only to the Crusaders recently, though not as experienced in dealing with defeat. Dealing with a place low on the table.

So when he does begin to raise his voice inside a Blues team huddle, fans are hoping that the signing is going to be to boost that many have always hoped for.

For years, the Blues especially, have pointed to the number 10 jersey as being the key to success. Even going so far as bringing in league player Benji Marshall. Yet the Barrett name is the latest, and possibly the greatest, to be seen as a repair in the aspirations of the region. And the Blues organization must have been well prepared to offer the two-time World Rugby player of the year, his leave – in order to have him at least provide credibility to the team once his strength is added.

Big-name signing came with ‘some strings’ attached

“We are happy to work with Beauden and New Zealand Rugby on the options he has negotiated for an extended break at the end of the year and potential offshore playing opportunity. He has earned that right,” said Leon MacDonald (in July 2019).

In an NZR release, it was stated that Barrett’s move to the Blues is arguably the most significant recent signing in Super Rugby. And Blues chief executive Michael Redman said it was the result of the rebuilding of the club both on and off the field.

“Signing a player of Beauden’s caliber has been years in the making,” Redman said.

“While Beauden’s personal circumstances created this opportunity, changes we’ve made to our club in recent years meant for the first time the Blues were a credible option for him. We believe the outcome is the most influential player movement in Super Rugby history.”

Is Barrett going to be that fix? Will he be the silver bullet? And is his role – after weeks of competition – going to come too late to correct their 2020 season? Not to say they wouldn’t be performing highly, it is just a realization of what stage should he have been more suitably introduced, that by Easter it may look piecemeal (at best).

And in what position? That has not been discussed openly, and apparently is a question which should be asked now; while Barrett enjoys his extended break from the game.

What position will the Blues play Barrett in anyway?

For the sake of the fan’s expectations though, it should be made clear early what Beauden Barrett Blues position he is favoured in. That has always been an issue for the Blues franchise though. Never fixed on retaining ‘starting roles’ the past is littered with wingers at center, half-backs covering first five and all number of flankers places for a large handful of quality players. Flexibility yes, injury derived….more than often. Yet, how well planned?

While the last rotation of coaches saw former director Tana Umaga retained, the first season for MacDonald was satisfactory. Two rare home wins against other NZ conference teams were highlights. Though the rotation continued; Stephen Perofeta was injured, so the rotation of Otere Black and young Harry Plummer did not solve the biggest Super Rugby problem north of the Bombay Hills.

Stephen Perofeta
Stephen Perofeta passes under pressure from Ngani Laumape during Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and the Blues. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

A fit Perofeta could develop into a solid option at 10. Will they find success under those men’s direction for the opening portion of the season? A tough question to answer, however, when available will Barrett be seen as the assured first-five choice?

Or will he be asked to fill ‘whatever role MacDonald feels is void?’

Removing that indecision early could solve many issues if the Blues continue with the All Blacks model of a fullback role. To follow the proven course of 2019; and with Melani Nanai and Michael Collins being released, the space at number 15. That would satisfy Ian Foster, and benefit the overall picture.

And while the Easter treats may be rolled out for Blues fans in April, the longer plan should be clearly outlined. When, where and how Barrett will be used. A planned approach and a clear focus would be a better reward for longtime Blues fans.

That would be ideal. And, for the best player in Super Rugby, to again produce his own brand of ‘awesome’ wearing a Blue jersey in 2020.

 

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