Opinion: There's more to life and rugby than money, Lima

Before I dive in, I just want to say I understand where Lima Sopoaga is coming from.

For guys from a "low socio-economic background" as he put it in his interview with the Guardian, huge offers from overseas can be tempting and one that All Blacks have started taking more often in recent years.

Whether it’s for family, the future or simply the fortune, there’s no denying Kiwi rugby talent is becoming harder to keep on our shores.

But there's a couple minor details Lima didn't mention when he sent this warning to the All Blacks about the changing times.

One, the guys that are going aren't the go-to stars.

It’s harsh, I know, but let’s be honest. When you look at the list of former All Blacks who have left our shores in recent years for the UK, none of them jump out as the 'one who got away' do they?

Charlies Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Julian Savea are just a few to leave since the 2015 World Cup but they were fringe players at best.

But, once again, hats off to them. They've gone and secured a future for themselves and their families that some can only dream of and it’s respectable that they adjusted their dreams of being an All Black or a world champion or whatever else for their families. There's no arguing that is a commendable act.

Other guys like Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith left to get a handsome paycheck before they hung up the boots after spending most of their careers adding to the legacy of the black jersey, so there’s not much to argue about there either.

The Chiefs coach said he's focused on the team's quarter-final, not speculation regarding Nonu.
Source: 1 NEWS

But that brings me to the next point.

Money doesn’t last forever but legacies do. For the guys who spend the larger part of their careers chasing and earning the black jersey, it’s almost like their names get woven into its fabric.

Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu – even Tony Woodcock after that stunning 2011 try. World class players at their position who will go down as some of the game’s best and if you look up a picture of them, it’ll be in a black jersey.

They could’ve gone overseas. They could’ve taken the big money. But as McCaw said in his film, he always set out on being a "G.A.B".

What kid doesn’t want that? Fame and riches are well and good but if you are considered one of the best in the world at your position, why would you ever want to leave arguably the best sports team on the planet when you can add to its history?

Sopoaga is right in saying the game has become a business and the "riches of Europe" are going to appeal more and more to "young guys" but going as far as saying "things are starting to change" in relation to the All Blacks is pushing it.

I can’t speak for the likes of the current youthful stars of the All Blacks but it’s fair to say there haven’t been many rumours of them being tempted off-shore by European clubs.

Again, this isn’t a dig at Sopoaga’s choice or anyone else’s for that matter but just a gentle reminder you can’t put a value on the black jersey.

And if you ever need a reminder of that, look up Karl Tu’inukuafe’s debut from earlier this year against France – I think everyone can agree a teary-eyed moment like that is truly priceless.