Thursday, May 26, 2011

NZRU rolling dice on four years for McCaw

OPINION: It's hard to escape the feeling that the there's more of a gamble element to Richie McCaw's new long-term contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union than there was with his great mate Dan Carter's similar deal.

It's great that Captain Fantastic is staying and I take my hat off to him for negotiating a four-year deal.

That's quite a feat given that he's already 30, plays in the most demanding position on the rugby field and has a bit of a history of headaches.

Can he still be operating at his peak at the 2015 World Cup? That's a six million dollar question.
Carefully managed it's quite possible and that will certainly be reflected in the inner details of this contract which should allow him enough breathing space to monitor his own health and welfare.

But as the game gets more ferocious - look at the ever-increasing physical nature of rugby and the impact of injuries this year - Richie's risk factors will increase too.

McCaw's retention appeared inevitable. He loves the lifestyle New Zealand offers and he's handsomely rewarded as he should be as All Blacks captain.

But he's more than that. He's the signature player of his generation, someone whose stature will rank alongside the likes of Colin Meads, Brian Lochore and Sean Fitzpatrick.
Intentionally or not, McCaw probably benefitted from Carter beating him to the mark by putting pen to paper last week.

Once Carter got the security of a four-year deal, McCaw always had a strong bargaining point for something similar.

They are our Batman and Robin, after all. And they are indeed a dynamic duo - playing 51 tests together for an 88 percent success rate that surpasses even the All Blacks remarkable winning ratio as a team down the history of the game.

The NZRU have been quick to acknowledge that they see McCaw more than just a guy running around with a No 7 on his back.

In a sport that is still finding its way in professionalism, McCaw's got the respect of his fellow players, the game's administrators and sponsors.

Highly intelligent, he will be able to mix those together and help find a formula for the way forward.

At the same time he will continue to set the benchmark for openside players.
It's a level that no one has managed to surpass during his record run of 94 tests for New Zealand.

The only question now is can he stay head of the pack for another four years?

Time will tell. But I'd certainly rather see him trying to be the best in the world in New Zealand rather than being turned into a tackle machine in the monotonous grind of European club rugby.

No comments: