Long-time PIC Steelers representative Baden Kerr will return to the province for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2020 with the Union announcing 12 signings for this season.
The former Blues first-five eighth has been playing for the Honda Heat in Japan but returned home during the Covid-19 outbreak and is set for a third stint with his hometown team.
With first-five being such a pivotal position and the experienced Kerr being back in the region it became an obvious thing to ask the 39-cap Steeler to commit to playing the 2020 season.
“Just the timing of Baden being back in New Zealand – we caught up for a conversation and we said we would love to have him back in Counties Manukau,” said PIC Steelers coach Tai Lavea. “We had no first-fives signed and so it was a bit of a no brainer really.
“It was good timing for us that someone of his talent and experience was available.”
Kerr is Counties Manukau through and through having coming through the grades at Karaka and made his professional debut with the union in 2010.
“I’m pretty pumped to be back home at Counties,” Kerr said. “I have been away for a couple of years in Japan and sort of slipped in just before lockdown began.
“I was lucky enough to be in New Zealand during these troubled times.
“Just before that I had a couple of conversations with Tai and Dean Cummins [assistant coach] about potentially playing for Counties but still not knowing the future in Japan.
“Once I got home I began training a little bit and had some proper conversations with Tai, Boof [assistant coach Grant Henson] and Deano and got really excited by the group of coaches they have and the chats we had and it became a bit of a no brainer.”
Kerr is delighted to be able to add to his 39 caps and extend his career into an eighth season with the province.
“I think the thing that always excites me about playing for Counties is that it is where I have grown up, where I was born and who I have always supported,” he said.
“I think when you have that feeling and you are playing for more than just a couple of dollars it becomes a lot more motivating.
“Tai has coaches that I have played with myself that are all Counties men and they are all passionate about the union. That makes a difference and it is quite contagious – you can’t help but feel the same kind of passion and drive that they feel.
“When you play for a place that means more to you than anywhere else with people that feel the same it makes it a really motivating environment.”
The 31-year-old made is a reliable pivot and outstanding goal-kicker. He will join returning PIC Steelers players Riley Hohepa and skipper Orbyn Leger as candidates to play in the number 10 jersey this season.
Also joining the union is Blues front rower Ezekiel Lindenmuth and former Auckland lock Lyndon Dunshea – the latter has linked with Waiuku Brian James Contracting for the club season.
Manurewa pair Pele Cowley (halfback) and Viliame Taulani (loose forward) have been rewarded for strong club form and have been given 2020 contracts.
Lock Mickey Woolliams returns to the PIC Steelers on the back of playing for Karaka in club rugby while All Blacks Sevens star Sione Molia will also represent the province this season with the Sevens program on hold.
Highlanders wingers Kirisi Kuridrani and Tevita Nabura have also both picked up PIC Steelers contracts once again while Johnathan Kawau (Bombay), Kalione Hala (Karaka) and Joseph Casey (Ardmore Marist) have also been rewarded with contracts.
The union will add some more signatures in the coming weeks.
“We still have 6-8 contracts available,” Lavea confirmed. “Our Cavaliers program is a short one but those guys that are in the mix are involved in that program.”
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