Thursday, May 26, 2011
TONY SMITH - The Press

The setting for New Zealand sport's second big re-signing coup said as much about Richie McCaw's rugby values as his ball-sneak ability at the breakdown.

Where would one expect the captain of one of the world's most successful sporting teams to make such a momentous announcement?

Parliament Buildings for the ubiquitous prime ministerial photo opportunity? A swank golfing resort? The red-carpeted lobby of some five-star hotel (though there aren't many of those left in Christchurch)?

Nope. Richie McCaw – who hails from a family farm in the Hakataramea Valley but a proud Cantabrian now – opted instead for his local footy club.

The 30-year-old confirmed the greatest open secret in the rugby world – that he wants to remain a Crusader and an All Black for four more years, boys – in the Christchurch Football Club's Westminster St clubrooms in modest Mairehau.

McCaw stood, casually but confidently, behind a bar-leaner, hands jammed in his jeans pockets. Above him, test jerseys donated by Christchurch and All Blacks flanker forerunners (Jock Hobbs and Mike Brewer) adorned the memorabilia-festooned clubrooms walls, along with the giant, Golden Oldies-style shorts of a late club stalwart.

Despite 10 years as an All Black, McCaw looked so much at home you could almost picture him behind the bar, pouring himself a post-press conference pint. He even interrupted his earnest answers to questions about his contract to lament Christchurch's loss of the "Crying Towel" trophy to Linwood.

Inquisition over, McCaw needed no second bidding to join a game of touch with a clutch of Christchurch club juniors before a posse of photographers.

But why isn't Richard Hugh McCaw, at the very apogee of his career, cashing in on his fame by trousering a stratospheric salary from some cashed-up French Top 14 or English premiership club?

Racing Club Paris, Perpignan and Bath were among the sharks circling Dan Carter till he, too, chose to sling his hook with the All Blacks till 2015.

But McCaw's never been tempted by the same bait because he's always made it plain: "It doesn't really interest me. If I feel like I still want to play, I'd rather play here."
It's already evident, judging by the grins on the faces of his tyro touch team-mates, that McCaw's call to commit to the Crusaders and All Blacks, will raise spirits here after Canterbury's catastrophic seismic shifts. While the earthquake's impact never came into McCaw's thinking, he quipped: "It wouldn't have been a good signal if I decided to up and leave because of that, would it?
"I enjoy living here. There's been some tough times, but we'll get there. Things will get better here and if [me staying] is a positive thing for others to see, that's cool, too."
He's a real home boy, anyway.

Some All Blacks flee their fishbowl existence in New Zealand to seek anonymity in Europe or the United States after each annual northern hemisphere tour.
Not McCaw.

"To be honest, in the past I haven't done that, because usually when you get time off, you've been away for up to six weeks on a tour, you just want to get home."

The keen glider pilot's "escape" is go to Omarama each summer and soar through southern skies. The winds are most favourable at that time of year and "people leave you alone pretty much down there so you can do your own thing. [I'm] not one who goes and escapes anyway."

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