It must be difficult running a Super Rugby league team, developing players into competent stars, only to see them bolt, in many instances to the NRL, or even to Europe, where their earnings potentials escalate dramatically.
There are some “feel good” stories, however, and one from this season involves the Hurricanes and their role in the comeback of Christian Lealiifano from a diagnosis of leukemia. Cancer seldom loses, at least not in the long term, so Leliifano’s return following his diagnosis 11 months ago is welcome news.
He will be the ACT Brumbies’ bench weapon Friday night in the quarterfinals match with the Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium. Many players have been inspired by the courage Lealiifano has shown, including Hurricanes fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, who actually said that the return of Lealiifano was “bloody inspiring,” which is several degrees of magnitude beyond simply inspiring.
The Hurricanes will need to remain vigilant and on the lookout for an ambush, despite their good results against overseas opponents in winning their last 13 games.
In other news regarding Super Rugby, NZ teams, with the exception of the Blues, have been achievers this season. The sad sack Blues have failed to make the playoffs with any regularity, making just two appearances since they won their last title in 2003, Fourteen years is beyond the stamina of most fans, unless you line them up against supporters of the MLB’s Chicago Cubs, who endured at 108 year championship drought before the Cubs took the crown in 2016.
In their last game, the Blues ended their season with a 48 – 21 capitulation to the Tokyo Sunwolves.
The Blues, judging from a glance at their roster, seem to be stocked with talent, but the team suffers from any number of issues, including recruitment, coaching and culture, but many in Auckland seem content to wait until next year.