Braid set for Reds switch
October 5, 2008
Braid is the first high-profile overseas recruitment for an Australia Super 14 side © Getty Images
All Blacks flanker Daniel Braid will join the QR Reds as Queensland's star import for the 2009 Super 14 season.
The 27-year old open side flanker is the first foreign international to be signed by an Australian S14 team as a "marquee" player since the ARU relaxed its restrictions on imported players. The Auckland forward made his New Zealand debut in 2002 but has had limited opportunities since then in a position dominated by outstanding flanker and All Black captain Richie McCaw.
Braid was recalled to the side this year for the Sydney Test against the Wallabies when McCaw was ruled out with an ankle injury, but again made way for McCaw when he regained fitness.
"This has been the toughest decision I've had to make in my rugby career. I've been with Auckland for eight years and the Blues for six and this is my home," Braid said in a statement. "However, I also wanted to experience something new in rugby and to me this is the best of both worlds.
"I still get to play in this competition but in a different environment with some fresh new challenges."
Braid said as a professional player he was looking forward to the opportunity presented by the move across the Tasman. "I am excited about the opportunity of playing Super 14 out of Queensland, the timing, the place and the team all contributed to my decision," he said. "It is exciting to be the first to take advantage of the new regulations in Australia. It is also exciting to see the opportunities for professional rugby players growing as the game evolves globally."
QRU Performance Rugby Manager Ben Whitaker said signing a player of Braid's experience and ability was a real coup for the Reds, who had been left short of a seasoned open side flanker for 2009 after David Croft's unexpected retirement. "We have some very talented flankers like Poutasi Luafutu recently come into the squad and others on the development pathway, but Daniel will give us the depth and experience we need in that position and help promote competition within the squad," Whitaker said.
"Open side flankers with Daniel's outstanding skill and professional experience simply aren't currently available in Australia, so this allows us to fill the gap left by Crofty's unexpected departure until our development program catches up. It will further improve our competitiveness and depth for 2009 and the younger guys will learn a lot from training and playing alongside someone of Daniel's experience."
From 2009, each of the four Australian teams competing in the Super 14 tournament are allowed to sign one "marquee" foreign player pending approval from the ARU, plus one "developing" foreign player who has yet to represent his native country at Test, Sevens or A-team level and would be eligible to play for Australia.
The Reds recently signed Otago Highlanders backrower Ezra Taylor on a two year deal, however Taylor is Australian-born and has yet to represent any country at international level.
This case highlights just how important the decision was to allow the states to contract overseas players, said ARU high performance manager David Nucifora, Braid's former coach at the Blues. "The quality of Daniel as a player and a person will be invaluable to the Reds, who needed to fix a problem in terms of depth and experience at openside flanker."
Auckland Rugby and Blues chief executive Andy Dalton thanked Braid for his contribution. "Daniel is an inspirational player and leader both on and off the field. He will be a big loss to us but we understand his reasons for heading offshore and farewell him with sincere best wishes."
Braid's departure further depletes New Zealand's playing stocks at openside flanker.
All Blacks forwards coach Steve Hansen said last month that developing depth at No.7 behind Richie McCaw was their top priority on the upcoming northern hemisphere tour. New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) general manager of professional rugby Neil Sorensen said it had put together "an attractive and flexible" package to try and retain Braid.
Braid is a member of the rare father and son All Black club and has 59 Super Rugby caps for the Blues in a total of 78 appearances for his province.
He captained New Zealand Secondary Schools and played for New Zealand under-19s, Colts and under-21s, making his Test debut in 2002 against Wales before playing his first Super Rugby match (v Waratahs 2003).
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