Flatmates re-sign for Crusaders
NEWS: Housemates and teammates Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt and George Bridge could look to extend their tenancy now that they have all re-signed to the Crusaders for another two years at least.
The young players have each had standout seasons for the Crusaders so far in 2017 and given head coach Scott Robertson ample reasons to re-sign them. With Hunt and Bridge both just 22 years old and Drummond one year older, Robertson says there is plenty of upside to these players yet.
"We have an incredible group of young players in this squad who have stepped up and impressed with their talent this year. These three players are a shining example of that.
"We are fortunate to have some of the most experienced and best players in the world in our squad, and a lot of the public focus has traditionally been on those well known players who also wear the black jersey. But this year, players like Bridge, Hunt and Drummond have effectively stolen the spotlight with a series of performances that have shown they are capable of footing it with Super Rugby's best players. The future for the Crusaders is certainly bright with these guys on board and we are thrilled to have re-signed them all," Robertson said.
Hunt and Drummond both hail from the Tasman region and played together in the Nelson College First XV, while Drummond and Bridge both play for the High School Old Boys club in Christchurch. The three of them live together in Drummond's house and say their friendship played a factor in re-signing for the team.
"We all know how incredibly lucky we are to be able to play rugby with our good friends for a living. Not many people get to make a career by playing the sport they love with their best mates, and none of us takes that for granted, so getting the opportunity to sign up to continue doing that for a couple more years was a bit of a no-brainer really," Bridge said.
The outside back has played 14 games for the Crusaders so far in his debut season. He was born and raised in Gisborne, but moved to Canterbury as a teenager to play age grade rugby there and to join the Crusaders rugby academy. He was Canterbury's Under-19 Player of the Year in 2014, played for the NZ U20 team in 2015, and was first selected for the Canterbury team in 2016, where he scored five tries in eight matches and helped the team to the Premiership title. With eight tries so far for the Crusaders in 2017, including hat tricks against both the Stormers and Cheetahs, Bridge has quickly made himself a frontrunner for selection with the Crusaders coaches.
Scrumhalf Drummond has been with the squad for the longest and has signed the longest-term contract of the three, committing right through to 2020. He joined the Crusaders in 2014 just before his 20th birthday, having moved to Christchurch the previous year to take up a spot at the Crusaders rugby academy and then in the Canterbury provincial team. An injury for former Crusaders halfback Willi Heinz at the start of the 2016 Super Rugby season provided the opportunity for Drummond to gain more playing time and he made the most of that, scoring four tries in thirteen games and challenging Andy Ellis for the starting spot. This season he has alternated with Bryn Hall in the starting position and continued to grow his game.
"I am loving my rugby this year and especially getting the chance to play every week, whether that be in the starting spot or off the bench. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to sign for this team at a young age and the trust that the coaches have shown in me motivates me to keep working hard and improving each week. I cannot imagine my future being anywhere other than with this team," Drummond said.
Hunt is in his second season with the Crusaders and has created some true season highlights this year with his match-winning over-time penalty goal against the Reds and his incredible 83rd minute, 43-metre, match-winning drop goal against the Highlanders.
Hunt's promise as a rugby player was apparent in secondary school when he made the Nelson College first XV in year 11 and, under the captaincy of Drummond, notched up 51 appearances. He played his debut provincial season for Auckland while he studied physics at the University of Auckland, but moved home to represent Tasman and the Crusaders in 2016. Like his flatmates, he has represented New Zealand at U20 level, playing alongside Bridge in the World Cup champion 2015 team and scoring 33 points in five games.
Hunt says he did not have to think too hard about re-signing for the Crusaders when the opportunity was presented to him: "There is a great vibe in this team, where every member of the squad feels valued and trusted to do their role. That is bringing out the best in a lot of us younger guys and I can see the opportunity to keep growing and improving over the next couple of years with this team, so I am excited to have re-signed through to 2019."