Sunday, September 16, 2007

Once upon a time....

Mentors leave their mark on stars: Richie McCaw
The Press Saturday, 15 September 2007

New Zealand rugby fans are indebted to Brian "Barney" McCone, while opponents might curse the man who taught Richie McCaw how to tackle.

The All Blacks captain has never made a secret of his admiration for the Kurow Rugby Club stalwart who took little Richard under his wing with 11 other farm kids from around the North Otago valleys.
Two long years young McCaw and his team-mates were drilled by McCone before they were even allowed to play their first real match.
"We'd just tackle one week, pass the next, punting the next and kicking the goals. Richard was a mean kicker, believe it or not. I wonder whether he ever bothers these days," said the 60-year-old, who turned tackling into a science, earning the gratitude of every All Black fan in the country.
"Barney was determined to get these youngsters into good habits right from the start," McCaw once told a reporter. "He started off with kids having to kneel down with one of the team member tackling them. Barney showed the tackler where his head should be and how to position his body."
The result was a well-drilled machine of Kurow kids who only lost two matches in five years. "They could cope with drills that our senior team was struggling with."
In the under-13 competition in 1993, young McCaw scored a whopping 17 tries and two conversions.
McCaw and Robbie McIlraith made the New Zealand under-19 team and "most of the boys all ended up in their first XVs at Kings, Otago Boys and Waitaki when they went to secondary school."
The Kurow mentor takes great pride watching his pupil leading out the All Blacks, especially when he sees his old drills pay off when McCaw gets to his feet as fast as humanly possible.
Otherwise, he admits, McCaw's strengths are down to pure talent and personal drive. "He was keen as mustard, quick to learn and so much quicker to react than everyone else. If the ball was on the ground, no-one would get there before him. That was all natural. He played very hard, but never took anything for granted."
McCone could not confirm the rural myth that McCaw used to tackle sheep, "but he grew up on a farm, so it wouldn't surprise me. He'd tackle anything." –Coen Lammers

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