Nonu to rejoin Hurricanes
Wellington - Veteran All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu said on Wednesday he was heading "home" to the Hurricanes next season, in his fourth change of Super Rugby clubs in as many years.
Nonu, often seen as a divisive figure despite his undoubted talent, said he was leaving the Auckland Blues for the New Zealand capital, where he began his Super Rugby career with 110 appearances for the Hurricanes between 2003 and 2011.
"I'm very happy to be heading home to the family again and am looking forward to the challenge ahead in 2015," the 91-Test All Black said.
Nonu, 32, left the Hurricanes under a cloud when then-coach Mark Hammett refused to renew his contract, amid reports of "petulant" behaviour by the player, including attempts to undermine Hammett in front of his team-mates.
He went to the Blues for a season, then headed south to the Highlanders in 2013 after reneging on a handshake agreement with Blues coach John Kirwan to remain with the three-time champions.
Despite this, Kirwan accepted him back at the Blues this year and managed to coax some excellent form from the player, who has frequently underperformed at Super Rugby level.
But with Hammett now gone from the Hurricanes to coach the Cardiff Blues, the door was open for a return to Wellington on a one-year contract.
Nonu said he bore no ill will towards Hammett for sacking him, saying the experience had been "a blessing in disguise" that forced him out of his comfort zone and made him more mature.
"I could probably now thank him, in terms of what happened, really," he told reporters.
"I can honestly say I was bitter when I left but these things happen and life throws you challenges."
Incoming Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said he was excited to welcome a player of Nonu's calibre.
"I coached Ma'a for the first time back in the early 2000s in the Wellington 'B' team, so we have a long history together as a player and coach," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to having him back in the environment and working with him again."
Nonu is expected to remain in New Zealand for the 2015 season and play a role in the All Blacks' World Cup campaign, then look overseas for opportunities in the final years of his career.
He played for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan's Top League on a short-term contract in 2011, when on a sabbatical from New Zealand rugby duties.