Ma'a Nonu looks set to return home to Wellington

Ma'a Nonu's return and confirmation of Beauden Barrett's decision to stay put are set to counter the fallout should the Hurricanes' Super Rugby play-off drought stretch into its sixth year.

It is understood Nonu's decision to put family first and return to his old stomping ground in Wellington is a formality that will play out over the coming weeks.

The All Blacks inside-centre has an out clause in his two-year Blues contract and is expected to activate his right to explore other options once their season is over.

Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni and incoming coach Chris Boyd would not comment, and Nonu has maintained his silence on the issue.

Blues coach John Kirwan has said he hopes Nonu will stay in Auckland.

An official announcement on Nonu's playing future is unlikely to come until both the Hurricanes and Blues are eliminated from the play-offs. That is in part because Nonu will want to leave Auckland having given everything he can for Kirwan, who gave him a Super Rugby lifeline last year when the door was shut at New Zealand's other four franchises.

A delayed announcement would also avoid his return to Wellington clashing with the departure of Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett, who dumped him after the 2011 season.

That decision has been keenly felt on the playing field over the past three seasons, with the Hurricanes' lack of punch in the midfield coming back to bite them badly during Friday's 24-16 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton. Tim Bateman is classy but not the ball-carrying midfielder the Hurricanes need. It is an asset which, along with a genuinely big and imposing lock in the mould of Chiefs star Brodie Retalick, is one of the obvious holes in the roster.

London-bound Samoan international Alapati Leiua could have provided the missing piece of the midfield puzzle, but was only moved from the wing halfway through the season and then injured his ankle in the crucial play-off push.

Nonu never wanted to leave Wellington and has had to commute between Dunedin and Auckland respectively for the past two years to spend time with his young family. He has shelved those distractions to star for the All Blacks and is nearing the end of his best season since 2009, the last time he helped the Hurricanes to the play-offs.

Nonu provides a compelling storyline. He is a favourite son and desperately wants to cap his career by winning in his home colours.

This story Ma'a Nonu looks set to return home to Wellington first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.