news online at www.star.kiwi TheStar Thursday June132019 SPORT 35 Halfback motoring on with careers • By Gordon Findlater FROM HYDRANGEAS to wagyu, classic cars and beyond former Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis does it all. Ellis made 154 appearances for the Crusaders between 2006 and 2016. These days he’s still plying his trade professionally with the Kobelco Steelers in Japan. However, he has a number of interests outside of rugby in New Zealand keeping him busy. The 35-year-old recently returned to Japan after a few months in New Zealand which included filming for an upcoming television series Motoka. “It’s kind of a mixture between Country Calendar and Top Gear,” said Ellis. “It’s about the cars, but also the people behind the cars and why New Zealanders are such bogans. Why we love our cars so much and why we have more cars per capita than any other country.” During filming, Ellis was taken for a spin by World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon and was even reunited with his former 1968 Ford Fairlane he bought from Reuben Thorne. Ellis got his first taste of rugby at under-six level with the Burnside Rugby Club. He stayed with the club until playing first XV rugby with Burnside High School. In his seventh-form year he won a six-month scholarship through the Willows Cricket Club in Loburn to go to Surrey in England and play club cricket. However, his passion for rugby surpassed his cricket talents and Ellis concentrated on rugby when returning to Christchurch with the Canterbury University club. “I wanted to go back to Burnside club, but they had the Tongan international halfback playing for them, so I had to move clubs and that’s when I went and played for varsity [University],” said Ellis. After impressing with the Canterbury B side Ellis was selected for the Canterbury academy. Within 18 months he found himself making debuts the New Zealand under-21 side, •Over the Super Rugby season, TheStar will look back each week at some of the identities who graced the Crusaders jersey in the past and discover where they are now Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks. “I was a bit of a rugby head so I almost idolised guys like Reuben Thorne, Justin Marshall and Andrew Mehrtens and then I’m standing there nude with them, nude. I know that sounds kind of weird and creepy, but that is sort of what it was like,” said Ellis. The halfback was part of Super Rugby winning teams in 2006 and 2008. However, what Ellis enjoyed most from his time with the Crusaders were the friendships and having a laugh. “For me it’s the memories with my mates on and off the field. Winning big games, tight games or must-win games. It’s a great feeling look your mate in the eye after a game and have a beer with him in the sheds,” said Ellis. During the early days with the team, some of the laughs included being forced to play pranks on more senior players. “Us young fellas, we’d play games and whoever lost the game, we’d come up with a prize for them . . . so if you lost you REUNITED: Andy Ellis found his 1968 Ford Fairlane in Winton while recently filming a television series. had to write a note to Reuben Thorne and buy him a box of chocolates. The note would have to say thanks so much for making me feel welcome from whatever your name was. If you lost you had to put that in his locker,” he said. In 2016 Ellis played his last game for the Crusaders and embarked on his new challenge in Japan. DISTRIBUTOR: Andy Ellis played more than 150 games for the Crusaders over 11 seasons. “I walked away with a massive smile on my face and gave everyone a huge hug and said thanks so much for the memories. It was just a great feeling, “said Ellis. “I didn’t know how long it would last over here, but sure enough I got made captain a couple of years ago and here I am still chipping away.” Perks of playing professionally include long off-season, which enables players to return home for up to four months. Another is the day-time kick-offs. “I remember thinking this is what I remember and why I loved the game so much when I was playing club footy . . . we’d have a few beers, a barbecue and go out for dinner after a game. That’s stuff you don’t get to do in New Zealand professional rugby we play so many night games,” he said. Ellis believes the upcoming season in Japan may be his last. After rugby he plans to invest extra time in his business interests. He and his Kobe butcher business partner kick-started Waitaha Wagyu. They beef up wagyu – a Japanese breed of cattle – on a farm in Chertsey, north of Ashburton. “We’re taking the best genetics and we’re using New Zealand’s premium feed. All the wheat, corn and barley is grown on the farm . . . the end product in unbelievable,” he said. The meat is exported and also used in top New Zealand restaurant including the George Hotel’s Pescatore. Ellis is also helping rural New Zealander’s removed from fibre internet connections to access the Rugby World Cup. He is a shareholder in Gravity – New Zealand’s only dedicated satellite broadband provider. He also still dabbles in landscape architecture – which he studied at Lincoln University. Last year Ellis released a book titled Kiwi Back Yards with close friend and former Canterbury bench-warming halfback Danny Kamo. The pair won a gold and a supreme award at the 2010 Ellerslie International Flower Show. 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