Super Rugby: Marty Banks had to prove to himself he’s good enough for the Highlanders’ return

Cult hero Marty Banks had every intention of returning for another season in Japanese rugby before a surprise phone call from Tony Brown before the NPC began redirecting him to a third stint with the Highlanders.

Banks, 32, was named to the Highlanders squad on Monday alongside seven new Highlanders and two other returning players, and is guaranteed plenty of playing time as one of two No.1 specialists 10 selected.

Josh Ioane's exit has opened up a place for Marty Banks.

Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

Josh Ioane’s exit has opened up a place for Marty Banks.

He replaces Josh Ioane, linked with the Chiefs, but Banks revealed that Super Rugby had never been his plan until Highlanders head coach Tony Brown warned him that Ioane could get an early release from his contract.

“I was offered a contract to return [to Japan] and around the same time Browny hit the base, talking about Joshy, ”Banks said.

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“To be honest, when he first called me I had been in Japan for a few years and stood out from the crowd.

“So I told him I would love to come back, but I want to do it in conditions that prove I’m good enough.

“It set the standard for the start of the NPC season because I knew I had to have confidence in myself to be able to measure myself against the new breed of players that come forward at the Super Rugby level.”

Coincidentally, Banks and Ioane faced off in the first round of the NPC season as Otago hosted Southland.

Not many people knew it at the time, but Banks was playing effectively for the opportunity to fill Ioane’s Highlanders jersey, and although the face-to-face never really took place after Ioane suffered a shot to the head, Banks almost guided the Stags to a surprise victory.

Banks said the display gave him the “confidence” to respond more definitively when Brown called back a few weeks after the start of the season.

“When Browny called the second time around I said I would like to come back and put the jersey on again,” Banks said.

“I was trying to get Browny’s confidence. I told him he can only choose me if he’s comfortable with what he’s saying.

“I worked with Browny for several years and he probably knows me more than I know myself.

“So you get that confidence when he called back and wanted me back in the band. It was quite special.

Banks had previously returned from Japan to the Highlanders for the 2019 season, but felt the campaign with Southland had put him in a much better position.


The Chiefs have named their team for next year’s Super Rugby Pacific.

“I feel a little more prepared,” Banks said. “Rugby in Japan is good but we were only playing in second year at the time [in the 2018 season], and coming back from second year pretty much straight to Super Rugby was a big step forward.

Banks broke his foot in training midway through the 2019 season – though he went on to play 79 minutes in agony against the Hurricanes – but expects a tough preseason Under the guidance of Highlanders coach Simon Jones will set him up well for 2022, when he will likely be used as the backup for Mitch Hunt.

The Highlanders will be led by Aaron Smith, but have lost Pari Pari Parkinson and Jona Nareki with serious knee injuries.

They signed the lockdown of Northland Sam Caird, who spent last season with the Waratahs, to replace Parkinson, while Waikato signing Mosese Dawai will be a strong candidate to replace Nareki in the No.11 jersey.

Highlanders team

Whores: Liam Coltman, Andrew Makalio, Rhys Marshall

Accessories : Ayden Johnstone, Ethan De Groot, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Jermaine Ainsley, Jeff Thwaites, Josh Hohneck, Saula Ma’u

Locks: Josh Dickson, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Bryn Evans, Sam Caird

Loosies: Shannon Frizell, Gareth Evans, James Lentjes, Billy Harmon, Sean Withy, Max Hicks, Marino Mikaele Tu’u, Hugh Renton

Half-back: Aaron Smith, Folau Fakatava, Kayne Hammington

Step of 10: Mitch Hunt, Marty Banks

Midfielder : Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Patelesio Tomkinson, Ngatungane Punivai, Scott Gregory, Fetuli Paea

The outer backs: Mosese Dawai, Vilimoni Koroi, Josh Timu, Sam Gilbert, Connor Garden-Bachop, Solomon Alaimalo

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