Nonu - Drico's the man

All Black centre heaps praise on rival who skinned him in 2006 – and that’s not only mistake he’s ‘making up’ for

MA’A NONU is a rock star and he doesn’t even know it. It was six years ago – although it feels like yesterday for the number of times he has been reminded of it – when Nonu, then 22, decided to wear eye make-up for his club Wellington in the National Provincial Championship.

“A lot of rock stars wear it. You know how they have American Idol. They used to have a ‘rock show’ similar to that when they were looking for a new lead singer for INXS back then,” he said.

“I gave it a crack for one game,” he admitted, in speaking to the Evening Herald.

It sounds like it might have been a mistake, the exuberance of youth winning out over the wisdom of experience. It went global just before the 2004 northern hemisphere tour. Did he suffer for that one?

“Yeah, I did. I still do. Some things never change, mate. I ended up going on that tour at the end of the year. I got asked about it. I didn’t want to lie. Aw yeah, I tried it and it turned to custard for me.

“Twenty years ago, when people played rugby, people respected the game because of what it was as a game. In this day and age, it has turned into something else because everyone in the whole world can see what you are doing by just jumping on the internet.”

Nonu has learned from his mistakes because he has had to. The All Blacks management doesn’t suffer fools gladly or otherwise. Neither does the New Zealand public. They are slow to forgive. They never forget.

On a June night in 2006 in Hamilton, Nonu was made to look ordinary by Brian O’Driscoll in a street-smart drift away from Ronan O’Gara’s flat pass to find the outside shoulder of the 17-stone centre.

“Mate, they played that try for three years. It was a lesson. At first, I was gutted. They kept playing it on national television. I kept looking at the date. That was three years ago, man. Move on. I have,” he said, with a broad smile across his face.

“For that one, I powered on the inside a bit too much and numbered off. O’Driscoll likes doing these outside drifters. He does it real late and, then, he takes the ball on the outside of the defender.

“That is what he did to me. He does it all the time. He did the same to Australia last year (November) to draw that game where he came late to go under the posts. He is really good on his feet.

“You just got to watch him. “You’ve have also got to respect that – ‘aw, he got me on that one’ – because you learn from it. If you play the game, you respect players for what they have done. If you look in from the outside, you just see all the flash stuff.

“Most people only see the obvious.” Nonu mimics: “Aw, he is the man.


“Why?” he answered his own question. “Aw, because he scored the try! If you know the game and you see what he (O’Driscoll) does, you know how good he is.

“He does a lot of stuff off the ball and considerable stuff on the ball. “He can kick. He can pass. He can run. Defensively, he is a big tackler. He can put in 15-20 tackles in a game and he is not afraid.”

For sure, O’Driscoll has done all those things. Now, he does them more irregularly as the years file by. It is the curse of time. It waits for no one, not even the greatest among us.

“He is still the man, though,” said Nonu. And you’re still a rock star, mate. Ma'a Nonu was speaking to Irish Evening Herald on behalf of adidas – official partner of the All Blacks.