By Jerome Fredon.
By Jerome Fredon.
Huge privilege. All Black captain Richie McCaw opened the door of his house in Christchurch for us. Here is our unforgettable afternoon.
“I’ve been waiting for you. Please, come on in, don’t be shy.”
This scene is quite surreal. After thousands of kilometres, hours spent in planes, here we are, facing the house of Richie McCaw. The All Black skipper. It is huge honour.
Between two test matches, Richie McCaw nicely accepted to spend a part of his day off as our guide in his secret garden. A life spent under the stars of Authenticity and Nature. Between the cycling rides on the hills over Christchurch, the flights over Omarama and the fishing trips with his mates in the Pacific.
So what does his house look like, him the best rugby player on Earth? Is it a big mansion on the seaside in a borough for Nouveaux Riches, guarded 24/7 ? Or a huge house with a swimming-pool, built on a wild domain under the control of enormous guards? No, not at all.
The life of a scared millionaire, hidden in his castle, ready at every moment to seize his gun or his phone –that is not the life Richie McCaw wants to live. The flanker of the Crusaders is a laid-back person. Relax Max, cool Raoul (NT : French set phrases to express “zen/ cool attitude”) His garden is within reach in a few seconds, no gate, no door code to type before getting in? The garage is wild open : you can see his magnificent red sports car parked in there, his racing bike made of carbon. The papers are still pilled up in front of the door as the sun has started its setting (NT : not sure of the word here.)
Richie McCaw has chosen a quiet life. The big green parks with their ancient trees and the Victorian houses in the centre of Christchurch were not for him, he chose simplicity : a peaceful suburb, reminiscent of the so-called Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives, where lawns are well kept and trees un-welcomed. Welcome to Shirley, little dormitory suburb in the North of Christchurch, 20 minutes away from the city center.
Home sweet home. Wearing a pair of black training pants and training shoes, Richie McCaw is also wearing the jersey of the French soccer team, jersey offered by Patrick Vieira (captain of the French soccer team) when the two (and their coaches) met last November as the All Blacks were touring France to play against les Bleus. They had attended the match France vs. Greece at the Stade de France. His smile is shining on his face which seems delighted (NT : not sure here either) Richie McCaw takes his time to show us his house. No expensive pieces of furniture or brand new TV. Very light decoration. On the wall in the living room, there is a picture representing a propeller plane. Tribute to his grandfather Jim, Royal Air Force pilot during WW2. But also piece of witnessing (NT : oups!) of the love of flying for this man born in Oamaru, holder of his flying licence. When he has some free time and when the weather is OK, Richie McCaw escapes for some hours in the sky, flying a glider. It’s a means for him to take some altitude but also to empty his mind.
In the living room, on a table, lie the rugby cups : on the foreground, the trophy of the best IRB player of the year 2006. In the corridor leading to his bedroom, the only picture of rugby in the house : a poster of the 2003 team, signed by all the players and staff members. In the kitchen, on the big fridge, there are several drawings by children.
“These are presents sent by my youngest fans”, the tall Richie smiles, tender. “They can’t read or write yet. It’s great to have fans of such a young age! These are the little things I pay much attention to ; even if, I must confess, I don’t always get the signification.”
Richie McCaw does his best explaining the history of all the objects inhabiting his home sweet home, that he bought 4 years ago with the bitter prize money. The one earned after the 2003 semi final lost against Australia.
“I would have preferred buying this house in other conditions. But I don’t have to complain about it either. This place is so perfect : it’s modern, spacious, the garage is big enough for me to park my car in and stock other stuffs…Yet, sometimes, it’s a bit too big for two roomies. My roommate is a friend of mine who is not in the business. It’s really good to be back home after work and to talk about something else or to have someone who can keep the house. With all the tours I do with the Crusaders or with the All Blacks, it’s hard to do things properly. I love tours : visiting other countries, seeing different people, getting out of our “nest”. But I realize that because I am often in my hotel room resting, in the end, I kinda get bored (?). When I am abroad, what I miss most are my room and my bed (NT : me too!!!) Even if I must say that they are smaller than those in the hotels we stay in.”
Son of a farmer. His bedroom doesn’t look like a luxurious suite of some one five-star hotel. This room looks like more a student-room than the room of a rugby genius. Personal stuffs over his bed, including the jersey of Olivier Magne –exchanged after the second test match in Wellington. Some bedside lamp on his bedhead table (NT : not sure). Training shoes offered by sponsors overflowing his cupboard. And dozens of jerseys and of trainings pants. For short : Heaven for any accomplished sports person. His mind is fine ; as well as his body.
This big boy, well built, with his six-pack, would he be ready to pose like his team-mate Dan Carter in a advertising campaign for underwear ?
“ You kidding me? That doesn’t attract me. Yet, if they offered me $400,000, it would be hard to say no. But, no, honestly, it’s not something I’d do. We are all different. The spotlights on us all the time often make me uncomfortable. You know, my father was a farmer. I grew up in a farm in the middle of nowhere in Otago. In Hakataramea Valley. Where the weather is tough, the living conditions not easy. Coming from there, I had never thought I’d live this life, so scrutinized, so commented. But what can I do? New Zealand is a small country where rugby is put on a pedestal. Sometimes I’d like to shop or go to a pub like everyone, without anyone to talk to me (?) But when I start thinking about it, I always ask this question “Would I like to do something else than rugby?” My answer is clear and without ambiguity. No I wouldn’t and I couldn’t.”
Bank. Yet, he could do it. Richie McCaw is as gifted with a pen on a copybook as with a ball on a rugby ground. Excellent student, he graduate high school with the best mark and graduated Lincoln University (Christchurch) in agricultural science (NT : about the university graduation, I am not sure of what mister Fredon writes in his article. I think Richie has suspended his university studies, but yes, he plans to graduate at the end of his rugby career. If you have more recent news about it, please tell me!). Agriculture is the business in which he grew up. Learning how to drive his father’s tractors from the age of 5.
“When you grow up in a farm, you learn to do things pretty young. Repairing the piping, building up the fence….it’s the best school of life. I find my roots in the country life, it doesn’t mean that I’d go back there to work."
Richie McCaw confesses having a weakness for banks and the world of trade. To avoid the migration of its jewel, the NZRU made him sign a contract with a 2 year contract with a bank (NT : the bank is Australian!)
“Anyway, even without this contract, I would not have left. It irritates me to see many of my team-mates leaving, but their motivation is understandable. New Zealand is a small country and it doesn’t have the same financial power as France or England. I have a beautiful house, a good situation, and look, it’s the beginning of winter and I am wearing a T-Shirt. So why would I go and get bored in England where the weather is execrable and winters are harsh? (NT : who said England, Richie? France would love to have you…I’m sorry, I’m kidding! But I am sure that after the 2011 World Cup, he will change his mind about the “playing in Europe issue”…) I’m fine here, in my piece of Paradise.”
Translation and notes by MaryL
If by any chance, you want to correct it in proper English, email me and I'll send you a ".doc" version (which I guess would be easier to correct) :
I still have problems to scan the pictures (but I'm working on it!!!)
La version francaise est a cette adresse