Wednesday, June 13, 2012

McCaw's advice set Romano on right track GREG FORD 12/06/2012

How many lanky teenage rugby players in their school Third XV would go to a neighbour they knew, who knew Richie McCaw, and ask to set up a meeting?
And how many of those pimply faced upstarts would then have the temerity to take onboard that advice, fulfil that boyhood dream and several years later make the All Blacks?
The answer must surely be just the one, Luke Romano, who at the tender age of "16 or 17" was clearly no wallflower.
He took some pleasure yesterday in recalling the fact that a few years later, when he made the Crusaders for the first time, he tapped McCaw on the shoulder and asked if he remembered that fateful day in his formative years.
The delight amplified when McCaw replied in the affirmative.
The intermediary who set up the meeting was Maurice McDermott, a Canterbury farmer and reasonably prominent racehorse owner.
McDermott, who played senior rugby on the wing, rolled out the welcome mat to McCaw when the future All Blacks captain was then in his first few years at Lincoln University and was searching for some work experience.
Romano lived near the then McDermott spread near Halswell junction, which is now a new subdivision.
"He mentioned one day he knew Richie and he had worked on the farm. I think he knew I was interested in rugby. I used to use his farm to work my [hunting] dogs so I asked him if he could set up a meeting ... one day [McCaw] and Maurice were going to look at a racehorse, I think, and so I came down and met him. I was pretty nervous. I was in my school Third XV and wanted to hear what he had to say."
Whatever McCaw said – Romano can't remember – worked. Romano's rise from club journeyman to ITM Cup debutant to Super Rugby lock to All Black in the space of three and a bit seasons has been meteoric.
For now, however, he must bide his time as the team's fourth lock behind Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Ali Williams, and he may not get any game time this series.
But Romano is doing what all young squad members do: soaking up as much knowledge and inspiration as he can in a bid to make a good first impression, which judging by his early brush with McCaw, count.

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