NHRU club Lake Macquarie sign former Waikato Chiefs lock Mark Burman

MARK Burman was on the road to All Blacks selection four years ago.

On Saturday the former Waikato Chiefs lock will play his first game for Lake Macquarie.

In a major coup for the ambitious Roos, Burman is one of the biggest signings in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union for 20 years.

He arrives from Italy on Friday and will make his debut for the Roos against Nelson Bay at Strong Oval the next day.

The 27-year-old 197-centimetre, 112-kilogram second-rower has just completed his third season at Mogliano in the Italian Super 10 competition.

He played four seasons for Waikato (2005-09) and had been included in an extended All Blacks squad before his career was stalled by a knee reconstruction.

Lake Macquarie assistant coach Bob Harrison met Burman in England in 2008 when the New Zealander was recuperating from the knee problem and has remained friends.

‘‘He had been sent to England by then-Chiefs coach Warren Gatland to do a bit of coaching,’’ Harrison said. ‘‘We became mates and have kept in touch.

‘‘I knew he was sick of the international rugby player lifestyle and floated the idea of coming and playing for Lake Macquarie.

‘‘I thought he was a 100-1 chance of saying yes.

‘‘He was negotiating with a club in Hong Kong, but his wife’s desire for the Australian lifestyle pushed him our way.

‘‘He has a couple of business degrees and that was part of his reason for dropping out of the globetrotter lifestyle.

‘‘He wants to establish a career and a life and the rest of it. His wife is a nurse and Lake Macquarie president Jon Newton has helped her find a job.’’

Despite his early promise, Burman struggled after the knee injury to force his way into the Chiefs starting side and played just one game of Super 14, in 2009.

Since then he has split his time between Italy and New Zealand.

‘‘He found it difficult at the Chiefs, who had a very good season when he was sidelined with the knee,’’ Harrison said.

‘‘He went to Italy to play professionally and came back to New Zealand every year to play ITM Cup for Northland.

‘‘I think he still has some aspirations to enter that Super 15 world.

‘‘He is a unit and will be an asset in every way, shape and form for us.

‘‘He is a consummate professional and was on the verge of full All Blacks selection not too many years ago.

‘‘To have a bloke that well credentialled and that experienced running around in the local competition ... he will add a new dimension not only to us but to the whole competition.’’

Burman’s arrival continues the Roos’ transformation from cellar dwellers to contenders. He is the club’s fifth big-name recruit, following Alo brothers Dave and Ray, Junior To’o and Matthew Clarke, who all have extensive experience in Sydney.

NSW Country five-eighth Brendan Holiday and backline utility Mika Taufaao are also back at Walters Park after stints away and this week they picked up props John and Felise Taufaao from The Waratahs.

Entering Saturday’s clash they sit in sixth place on 21 points, two adrift of Wanderers.

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