Aaron Cruden has reached the top of the rugby world, a world cup winner in 2011 with the All Blacks and multiple super rugby titles with the Chiefs. But the one jersey the Ngāti Kahungunu first-five has yet to wear is the Māori All Black one. During his short return with the Chiefs, Cruden hopes he might finally be able to tick that box.
Cruden's rugby career has been defined by being in the right place at the right time.
"It's funny how the world works sometimes, an opportunity came up where my time in France was ending and then it sort of married up with super rugby starting. And then the Chiefs, there was an opportunity back here and this team is a team I'm very passionate about," he says.
An injury to Daniel Carter in 2011 saw Cruden receive the call up to the All Blacks during the world cup and subsequently become a world champion. His career continued to grow but he never got the chance to play for the Māori ABs. He is now hoping that his time may come this year.
"Hundred per cent I'd love to represent the Māori All Blacks, certainly (to) put that jersey in the closet would be very special," Cruden says.
"It came down to the timing really, I would have loved to have represented the Māoris before now but I was often tied up in the All Blacks' environment when the Māoris had their tours or were playing their game."
Cruden has once again demonstrated his class on the field since his return to the Chiefs, which has led some to discussion around a potential All Blacks recall. As he is only here for this one season, he says it is not something he has considered too deeply.
"I suppose you can never say never, it's funny how the world works and how things work out. But right here right now, it's doing what I can to contribute for the Chiefs and our push for another title."
The Māori All Blacks schedule for this year has not been announced yet but, if there happens to be a game scheduled before his departure to the Kobelco Steelers in Japan, Cruden might once again be in the right place at the right time.
"As I said, you never know if the timing works out. I'll certainly be one to put my hand up for that."
After a career of fortunate timing, Cruden will be hoping that fortune continues to smile on him this one more time.