Full press conference: Nonu confirms Hurricanes return
By Daniel Gilhooly
All Blacks veteran Ma'a Nonu says he returns to the Hurricanes a better person for being shunted out of his comfort zone by Mark Hammett.
The world class second five-eighth announced his fourth Super Rugby move in four years on Wednesday, leaving the Blues to link again with the Hurricanes where he played 110 games across nine seasons.
Nonu was axed by Hurricanes coach Hammett after the pair fell out in 2011.
Seasons at the Blues, Highlanders and Blues again followed before the 32-year-old spied a gap back at the Hurricanes following Hammett's departure to coach Cardiff.
Nonu admits he was furious when cast adrift from Wellington, along with All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore.
However, he resisted the opportunity to return fire at Hammett, who on Tuesday criticised the poor professional standards at the Hurricanes when he began his four-year coaching term.
"I could probably now thank him, in terms of what happened," Nonu told a press conference.
"I was bitter when I left but these things happen and life throws you challenges.
"I spent nine years with the Hurricanes and never left Wellington so it was honestly a blessing in disguise, going to new places where I was really uncomfortable and vulnerable at times."
A reputation as a difficult person to manage followed 91-Test veteran Nonu in recent seasons.
His international form has often outshone his Super Rugby efforts although he was generally very good this year for the 10th-placed Blues, where teammates and coach Sir John Kirwan regularly praised his contribution.
"Hopefully my peers can say nice things about me, that's what I'd like. I think I've grown and matured," he said.
Kirwan says while it is disappointing to lose one of his best players, he understood Nonu's motivation.
"He's always been a Hurricanes man and he loves his home and his people. It's been hard on Ma'a missing his family so he's got our blessing."
Nonu is relishing the chance to live again with his partner and two young sons, who remained in Wellington this year while he was based in Auckland.
New Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says Nonu will help fill a gaping hole left by departing backs Tim Bateman and Alapati Leiua.
He will complement a star-studded backline already featuring All Blacks Julian Savea, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara.
Captain Conrad Smith told journalists on Tuesday that Nonu's return would need to be handled carefully.
"Bringing a player that influential back into the team we have to make sure the whole team is happy with it," he said.
"He's a good mate of mine and I've played a lot of rugby with him. It will be good for the team but it has to be managed right."