June 4, 2023

‘It was a tough time’: The All Black who ‘had’ to leave New Zealand

'It was a tough time': The All Black who 'had' to leave New Zealand

At just 25 years of age, one-Test All Black Brett Cameron left New Zealand to pursue an opportunity with Japanese club Kamaishi Seawaves.

But the playmaker didn’t want to leave New Zealand, he just “had” to.

Cameron had enjoyed a promising start to his professional career with Canterbury and the Crusaders, before making a shock debut for the All Blacks in 2018.

While his selection in the No. 22 jersey came as a surprise to many – including Cameron himself – it was a clear indication of his potential.

But opportunities to impress at Super Rugby level still proved hard to come by.

Champion Crusader Richie Mo’unga had made the No. 10 jersey his own down south, as he continued to showcase his brilliance on the field.

Instead, Cameron was made to watch from the sidelines.

Three years after his All Blacks debut, Cameron left the Crusaders at the end of the 2021 season.

While the first-five went on to impress with Manawatu in the NPC, Cameron failed to secure a Super Rugby deal with any of the NZ franchises after leaving the Crusaders.

“It was a little bit of a weird time for me, finishing up down south and didn’t have a lot come up that year,” Cameron told RugbyPass.

“That opportunity to go overseas was something that wasn’t my first choice, but something I had to do at that time.

“My intention was always to come back and play NPC, and hopefully get back into Super Rugby from there.

“It was a tough time but I guess teams all have their players that are signed up for a couple of years.

“I had to take it as it comes and it gave me a bit of fuel for that season of NPC where I had a move to Manawatu.

“That was good in a way, it allowed me to express myself and then do the same thing overseas.”

After moving back to his home province of Manawatu, Cameron was praised for his scintillating form in the No. 10 jersey.

Champion halfback Bryn Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod that the first-five was playing the “best rugby of his career” after leading Manawatu to the Championship semi-finals.

But the decision was done, and the contract had been signed. Cameron was lost to New Zealand Rugby for a season.

By the time Super Rugby teams came knocking, the Whanganui-born talent had already put pen to paper with Kamaishi for the inaugural Japan Rugby League One campaign.

But in July last year, the New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed that Cameron had signed on to play for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby Pacific in 2023.

Cameron is expected to challenge for the starting spot at first-five, if not make that jersey his own, this season.

While he’s focused on playing “Super footy again” for his home region, Cameron spoke about his desire to don the coveted black jersey once again.

“I definitely think that when you’re playing in New Zealand, everyone wants to be an All Black,” he added

“It’s definitely something that everyone’s striving for here. That’d be awesome to build on that but just stoked to be playing Super footy again.

“That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”

Cameron will miss the Hurricanes’ trip across the ditch to start their season, having torn his calf in their preseason clash against the Blues.

As reported earlier this week, the Hurricanes are also set to be without rising star Ruben Love.

The Hurricanes begin their season with a blockbuster against the Queensland Reds in Townsville on Saturday, before playing the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby Round the following week.

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