October 28, 2013
Nonu hoping for a new chapter with the Blues
By SANZAR News Service
All Blacks second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu admits to being surprised as to how the wider public views him, but while media at times do their utmost to talk up a hidden 'bad boy' in the most-capped New Zealand midfielder, perception of the 85-Test centre is far more positive than some quarters depict.
Last week it was confirmed that Nonu will return to the Blues, his third club in four Super Rugby seasons, and this movement between franchises is often combined with what, again is perceived, is something of a demonic persona.
Nonu's in your face tackling style has attracted plenty of critics to go alongside his movements at Super Rugby level, but outside of this the big centre has more fans that he realises.
On the All Blacks official social media accounts, Nonu remains the second most popular figure after captain Richie McCaw.
The announcement of his re-signing with New Zealand Rugby and the Blues attracted nearly 20,000 likes in less than a week, and most comments were thankful the back was remaining in the country.
At public fan sessions, Nonu is arguably the most swamped All Black.
There has been much said about a possible 'u-turn' by Sir John Kirwan or perhaps some subtle suggestions from the governing body, but it is highly unlikely that the Blues would have been pressured by the national body.
Nonu's comments regarding conversations with French clubs proves this, while Sir JK has made it clear that the driving decision in the end was that "a world class player was available" and that his experience would be valuable.
Another factor is Sir Graham Henry, who had no issues of his own managing Nonu.
Under the tutelage of Henry and now Steve Hansen, Nonu's game has only grown, with a maturing kicking game evident this season.
It was his performance at Forsyth Barr Stadium that laid to bed any suggestions of Nonu's worth.
With Ben Smith playing just his second Test in the midfield, Nonu was everywhere as he looked to take pressure off his novice partner.
Hansen was very direct with his praise of Nonu afterwards, stating he was the best number 12 in the game and that the All Blacks "love him" and were thrilled he would not interrupt his Test career by heading off overseas.
Speaking to Fairfax Media, Nonu was surprised he was judged at times, although ironically some reports have been doing there best to add fuel to the fire.
"I would like to change the perception in terms of how people view me and think what I'm like. They're judging me off the field without really knowing who I am," Nonu said.
"I can't control how the public feel. I've played for different teams and there are some loyal fans out there who wouldn't agree. Not a lot of people are forgiving. But I could never say I was half-hearted in those Super Rugby games. All I can say is I do try.
"I've got a lot to prove. Personally I feel I have to prove people wrong all the time. It drives me more to succeed, to do what I do best. The best way I can express who I am is to play good rugby."
Nonu didn't know how it came to be that he was regarded as a negative influence.
"I don't know what that means," he said.
"I need facts in terms of examples in how I'm perceived in that way. Who has put it out there? It would have been things that I've done. I need details. It's been thrown out there last two years and it hasn't been nice.
One example is certain, it took perhaps the best campaign of Jean de Villiers life to knock Nonu off the perch as the best number 12 during The Rugby Championship.
He may be mis-understood, but one thing he will know, is that his form on the highest stage is without peer and he will look to translate that intimidating form to Blues colours next year.