Bridge signs long-term deal with Crusaders
Christchurch - The Crusaders have announced that George Bridge has become the first player to ink a long-term deal with the franchise through to the 2022 season.
The 23-year-old outside back has also re-committed to Canterbury through to 2021.
It has been a meteoric rise for Bridge, who was born in Gisborne but moved to Christchurch and progressed through the Crusaders and Canterbury development programmes.
In 2014, Bridge was named Canterbury under-19 Player of the Year, and the following year he was a member of the New Zealand under-20 squad that won the Junior World Championship in Italy.
From there, he made the Canterbury Mitre 10 Cup team for the 2016 season and did enough during Canterbury’s Premiership-winning campaign that year to earn a spot in the Crusaders squad for 2017.
Bridge was the last year’s Crusaders’ Rookie of the Year, scoring eight tries during his debut season, including two hat-trick games in consecutive weeks against the Stormers and Cheetahs.
He helped Canterbury to their third straight provincial title in October, and then received the call up to the Barbarians squad, who faced the All Blacks at Twickenham on November 5.
This season, the versatile back has featured in all but one of the Crusaders games so far and has played the most minutes of anyone in the squad.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said it was fantastic to secure a player of Bridge’s promise through to 2022.
"George is one of the form players of the Super Rugby competition, who continues to impress us with his skillset, pace and attacking nous," explained Robertson.
"He had a superb debut season for us last year and has made massive strides again this year - he’s a player who is knocking on the door of international rugby.
"George has played some big minutes in 2018 but regardless of whether he’s on the wing or at fullback he delivers consistent performances for us which has been a hallmark of his career so far. At just 23 years of age his best rugby is still ahead of him, and we are thrilled he’ll be playing in a Crusaders jersey for at least the next four seasons."
Canterbury head coach Joe Maddock said Bridge is an exceptional talent who, despite his age, is already an important leader in the Canterbury backline.
"George progressed through the academy programme and burst on to the provincial scene in a big way back in 2016. His game has moved from strength to strength in such a short space of time.
"He’s a quick, instinctive player with plenty of energy and flair, but he also makes good decisions and knows his way to the try line so his is most certainly a star on the rise. We’re excited that he’ll continue to wear red and black and I know his voice will be important among our young playing group this season," said Maddock.
Bridge had no hesitation in re-committing to the Crusaders and Canterbury.
"It’s fair to say I’ve had a busy couple of years, but the experience has been invaluable to me and the development of my game during that time has really cemented the fact that I am in the right place to further my rugby career," he said.
"Having been a part of the success of last season for the Crusaders and Canterbury, I want to continue to be a part of that and contribute as best I can to teams that mean a lot to me.
"As a young player, it’s nice to have some certainty at this early point in my career and I have no doubt that the best decision for my rugby future is right here in Christchurch."