I've got a lot to prove
Ma'a Nonu, the talented All Black everybody loves to hate, feels he is just misunderstood.
After nearly heading abroad because no franchise in New Zealand wanted him, Nonu finally found a home at the Blues last week - when the NZ Rugby Union confirmed that the burly midfielder has signed with NZRU and the Blues for 2014 and 2015.
Now Nonu wants to change the public perception that he is a divisive influence that doesn't care about Super Rugby and only performs at Test level for the All Blacks.
"I would like to change the perception in terms of how people view me and think what I'm like," Nonu said.
"They're judging me off the field without really knowing who I am," he added.
"I can't control how the public feel. I've played for different teams and there are some loyal fans out there who wouldn't agree. Not a lot of people are forgiving. But I could never say I was half-hearted in those Super Rugby games. All I can say is I do try.
"I've got a lot to prove. Personally I feel I have to prove people wrong all the time. It drives me more to succeed, to do what I do best. The best way I can express who I am is to play good rugby."
Ever since Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett ejected Nonu from his home franchise Nonu's Super Rugby form has been scrutinised like no other. He hasn't been able to showcase his world-class abilities as often as he'd like.
But he isn't sure how or who constructed his "troublemaker" tag.
And if he has been a disruptive influence, he wants people tell him how so he can improve, if necessary.
"I don't know what that means," the 85-test veteran said. "I need facts in terms of examples in how I'm perceived in that way. Who has put it out there? It would have been things that I've done. I need details. It's been thrown out there last two years and it hasn't been nice.
"I think I'm misunderstood in that aspect. When you play for the All Blacks there's 15 men that are playing the best rugby they can. When you're in this team you just do your job. Everyone is responsible."
That's a view shared by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
"He's a great player who is often misunderstood by a lot of people but he's certainly been great in our environment," Hansen said. "We love him and I'm sure he'll be very good for the Blues."
Nonu admits to making mistakes. He regrets the way his time ended in Dunedin, his red card from a tip tackle which forced him to sit out the final two games of the season. He realises some stoic southern fans will hold on to that act alone.
But, for one reason or another, Nonu isn't the only player to leave the Highlanders. There's been a mass exodus of their top-tier talent.
Before Kirwan called, Nonu was resigned to leaving for France.
Later the Chiefs also extended an offer but the 31-year-old felt he needed to repay Kirwan's show of faith.
"It was pretty close," he said of deflecting to a French club.
"We had to get the formalities sorted and decide whether it was a yes or no to get the ball rolling. I could have said yes in a matter of days.
"It was one of those uncomfortable places you don't want to experience all the time.
"The Blues were the first ones to come when no-one else wanted me."
Source: Fairfax NZ News