Two decades have come and gone without ABs success at the RWC, and now our hopes will be led by a Cantabarian raised in the remote North-Otago valley of Hakataramea.
Richie McCaw (RMC) has been in possession of the chalice, poisoned or otherwise, of AB captain since May 2006, taking over from the retired Tana Umaga as the man in one of the most powerful positions in the country.
Gary Whetton, Sean Fitzpatrick, Taine Randell & Reuben Thorne have all failed before him in seeking the country’s the country’s fist WC win since 1987. The expectations have not gine unnoticed by the humble 26-year-old who grew up in the Haka. Valley –especially since he was involved in the disappointment of the 2003 campaign.
“It’s been there for 4 years –it hasn’t changed a whole lot to be honest,” RMC said. “I guess as it comes closer, there’s a bit more talk about it, but everything we’ve done so far has been about getting ourselves ready. At the time, you focus on each campaign, but in the bog scheme of things, hopefully you get better and better. We can only control what we can control –that’s what we’ve got to keep telling ourselves –and not let the weight of expectation and what people outside our group are saying (affect us), because it ain’t going to help us.”
RMC’s memories of his junior footy aren‘t too dissimilar from most young North Otago kids into their rugby in the late 1980s –they revolved around travelling.
“We used to travel on the bus to Oamaru most Saturdays,” he said. “We had a good wee team that had been together since about under-nines through under-13s and we has a good coach –we used to win most games, which was good. The only sport there was, was rugby and if you were going to play sport, you were going to play rugby and most guys did that.”
RMC’s drive has never been far away when he’s stepped onto the paddock, even as a six-year-old at ball skills sessions in 1987. The “good coach” RMC refers to was Barney McCone, who described the Haka. boy as a fast learner.
“He was always very quick to pick anything up,” McCone said.
Passion and competitiveness continued to stick out in RMC’s games in the North Otago JAB rugby competition prior to the departure for Dunedin, to board at Otago Boys’ High School –and McCone could always picture RMC as someone who would go far. “I was always quietly confident that he’d make it”, McCone said.
RMC agrees his tireless quest for improvement was something which pulled him through grades. “That’s the thing –as young kids, there are a lot of kids that are talented enough to make the ABs, it’s just when you get to high school and leave school, it’s about who wants to put the time in”, he said. “There were better rugby players than I was at school, but they decided on other things –and I guess that’s the way it is. And that’s the key to enjoying it I think –it’s what I had when I was young.”
Andrew Gard, 26, played alongside RMC right through the grades for the Kurow JAB club section. Gard reckons RMC’s legendary work ethic was in place back in his early days –even if he got onto trouble for it.
“He was just a real hard grafter”, he said. “He used to get a barrel for getting his uniforms and knees dirty before he played, and he was bloody good at bulrush at school. He might have actually got (bulrush) banned because he was flattening too many people.”
RMC will probably be back to visit Kurow in the near future –although the boots might stay at home in Ch-ch. With another attractions for RMC –gliding –based just up the road at Omarama, a grin came across his face as he contemplated the likelihood of appearing in the red of Kurow again.
“It’s probably unlikely –my folks don’t live down there anymore, (but) I get down Omarama way, so who knows –you never rule it out, but I can’t see it at the moment.”
That’s doesn’t bother Andrew Gard too much –who is just stoked to see one of his former team mates pulling on the black and leading world’s No 1-ranked side onto the famous rugby paddocks of the world.
“It’s good to see someone from here licking on like that and doing a lot of things for NZ, and representing the rugby culture that is here in Kurow,” Gard said. “There are a lot of guys that have kicked onto representative footy from here –RMC’s just gone that extra bit”.
And if, fingers crossed, RMC happens to lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy?
“We’d be proud if someone from here has gone on that far, and it would highlight us as a good place for young rugby players.”
Thank you Izzy...
Pour les francophones, si vous voulez la traduction complete, demandez moi, parce que la, j'ai pas le courage...Y'a fallu que je tape l'article deux fois (ah les ordis qui mangent les doc', j'aime ca!!!) Dsl...mais bon, y'a rien de super nouveau : les gens de Kurow sont fiers de Richie (et on les comprend!)