NZ sprinter Eddie Osei-Nketia on Crusaders radar after Tokyo 2020 Olympics snub

Missing out on Olympics selection is the nightmare scenario for many a young, aspiring athlete, but Eddie Osei-Nketia could convert his Tokyo 2020 absence into a potential Super Rugby career.

That’s after the 20-year-old revealed his manager has been in contact with Crusaders, one of the most decorated franchises in the southern hemisphere following his Summer Games snub.

Osei-Nketia recently wrote a lengthy post on Instagram criticising New Zealand’s Olympic selectors for omitting him from the squad despite the fact he met the qualifying standard.

With a place at Tokyo 2020 no longer on the table, the youngster told RugbyPass Crusaders have already been in touch regarding a possible switch: “Last week, my manager told me that the Crusaders were actually keen on me and he said that (head coach) Scott Robertson wanted to have a chat with me.

“I haven’t heard from him yet, but I’m assuming he’s a busy guy. I haven’t heard anything, yet, from anyone else.”

The franchise confirmed there have indeed been “preliminary discussions” with the sprint star, who ran the 100 metres in a new personal best of 10.12 seconds earlier this year.

Crusaders have won 10 Super Rugby titles—at least seven more than any other team—and interest from the Canterbury club should be considered flattering in itself.

They were also crowned back-to-back Super Rugby Aotearoa champions in 2020 and 2021, a New Zealand-only competition held while travel was restricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking in further detail about the possibility of representing Crusaders, Auckland-born Osei-Nketia continued: “I’ve actually been thinking about it a lot, wearing the red and playing down in Christchurch in the cold.

“It’d be a massive honour to play for one of the best teams of all-time in Super Rugby, helping them out and being a part of the Christchurch community.”

“It looks like a pretty elite academy that can transfer rugby players to elite rugby players. If I go through the academy, I believe that I could change into a very, very talented rugby player. That’s what I think,” he added.

The 10.12 seconds he ran in the men’s final of the Queensland Track Classic in March was still second to Australia’s Rohan Browning, who clocked 10.05 seconds and is headed to Tokyo 2020.

However, Osei-Nketia’s time was enough to move him within 0.01 seconds of the New Zealand record, which his father, Gus, set at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

It’s alleged the New Zealand Olympic Committee left their prospect out of the Olympic contingent because they didn’t envision him finishing among the top 16 of his event.

Following that disappointment, Osei-Nketia’s next priority may be nailing down a place among the starting XV under Crusaders coach Robertson.

Regarding the alleged interest coming from Rugby League Park, a spokesperson for the franchise told RugbyPass: “I can confirm Eddie’s management team reached out to the Crusaders about his desire, having missed out on Olympic selection, to pursue a professional career in rugby.

“These were preliminary discussions to explore what opportunities and pathways are available to Eddie, to fulfil his athletic potential within a high performance rugby environment.

“However, these conversations have not extended to the possibility of bringing Eddie to the Crusaders, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment further.”

There’s little doubting Osei-Nketia would have the pace to make a run at rugby union, presumably as a winger or full-back, but the mathematics in switching codes are rarely straightforward.

United States speedster Carlin Isles had a short-lived spell with Scottish outfit Glasgow Warriors before leaving union to return to sevens.

One-time England international Christian Wade has also swapped trades after leaving rugby for a career in the NFL, but the Buffalo Bill—now 30—has struggled to break out in American football.

Osei-Nketia is young enough that he may have sufficient time to hone his skills and thrive in union, with Super Rugby often regarded as the pinnacle of club rugby.

A move to Christchurch could make him a rival of hometown franchise the Blues, who won the inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman tournament in June.

The prodigy may not be able to represent his country in Japan as an Olympian, but a future spot on the All Blacks squad may beckon in the years to come.

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