Opinion: Sorry, Warriors - let Etene Nanai-Seturo play rugby

Put some serious wedge down on Etene Nanai-Seturo remaining with New Zealand Rugby and not wearing a Warriors jersey in 2018.

The NRL club is crying foul, calling New Zealand Rugby disrespectful for driving over the top of what they claim is a bonafide contract they have with the schoolboys star, now showing his wares with the All Blacks Sevens.

Let's get things clear.

Nanai-Seturo, who went by the surname Nanai when he was carving up on the First XV fields for St Kentigern College, is said to have signed a deal with the Warriors when he was 15.

Setting aside the viewpoint that no 15-year-old should be signing a deal with anyone, the fact is that any contract signed by a minor is virtually unenforceable in a New Zealand court of law. Nanai-Seturo has clearly changed his mind about wanting to forge a career in league – and my sources tell me this was the case as far back as 2016 – and decided to throw his lot in with rugby.

Back in 2015, he was making an impression at fullback for St Kentigern. He was just about the best player on Eden Park when the First XV won the coveted 1A title in hard-earned fashion against Auckland Grammar in the final.

By the start of 2017, admittedly off the back of an off-season training with the Warriors, he looked dangerously sharp, often at centre for St Kentigern. The YouTube clips showed as much, going viral.

Nanai-Seturo made his debut for the All Blacks Sevens last weekend in Sydney, despite the tug-of-war. Source: 1 NEWS

The Chiefs were interested, as were the All Blacks Sevens. Nanai-Seturo had to declare his commitment to New Zealand Rugby, and he was duly selected in the 2017 NZ Schools squad, not long after turning 18 when, legally, he became an adult.

Nanai-Seturo appeared for Counties Manukau in last month's national provincial sevens event, and showed his raw potential for New Zealand in Sydney and Hamilton. Watch for him later in the year to feature for the Steelers in the Mitre 10 Cup and perhaps the Chiefs in Super Rugby 2019.

So there is no tug-of-war. The bloke wants to play rugby, not league, and no one is going to force him to play a sport he has forsaken. The Warriors may argue they have invested some time and money in him, but teenagers, in all walks of life, change their mind.

This is no different. Hard luck.

Contrast that with Isaiah Papali’i, who was in sterling form for the 2016 MAGS First XV and won the national Top 4 player of the year. But his name was missing from the NZ Schools squad of that year.

Why? He had declared for league, having already been in the Junior Warriors programme. Last year he cracked first grade.

In 1995, if you recall, Ruben Wiki had signed two contracts, one for the Warriors and one for the Canberra Raiders, spawning the nickname 'Two-City Wiki.'

The Warriors lost that one, and they will lose Nanai-Seturo too.

That is rugby's gain, and it's a good one.

Campbell Burnes is one of the most experienced active rugby writers in the country, having covered the game since 2000. As a player, he represented Manu Samoa, NZ Universities and Thames Valley. His journalistic career has seen him write for Rugby News, the Herald, the Western Leader and myriad publications both in print and online.

Etene Nanai-Seturo breaks a tackle during the HSBC Sydney Rugby Sevens Quarter Final between New Zealand  and Australia at Allianz Stadium, Sydney,  Sunday 28th January 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson /
Etene Nanai-Seturo playing for New Zealand sevens Source: Photosport