The All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup victory has given New Zealanders a chance to celebrate success in our national game again, but it should also be a time for us to reflect on the end of a great era for All Black rugby – the Richie McCaw-Dan Carter era.
Carter and McCaw played their first match together for the All Blacks against Wales in June 2003.
Once Carter had adapted to moving in to first-five from the midfield, New Zealand were consistently able to field two of the best players ever in two of the most influential positions on the park.
Some people round the world would probably be stunned to know that there are many people in New Zealand who have openly suggested that retaining McCaw and Carter was a poor use of the New Zealand Rugby Union’s money – and also that the pair owe a lot to the game at home.
Surely it is New Zealand rugby that is indebted to these two men. For every dollar that McCaw and Carter have been paid over their careers, the New Zealand Rugby Union would have been repaid many times over through their massive contribution towards the All Blacks’ success on and off the field.
People often talk about how parents should be role models, but the reality is that a large percentage of parents are actually poor role models for kids, or aren’t around enough to set any example.
Inadvertently, sportspeople become role models, and as the two Cantabrians have matured they’ve become role models that even adults model themselves on.
Particularly McCaw is revered because he has kept his feet firmly on the ground (despite his passion for flying) and has remained so genuinely humble despite all the accolades that go his way.
Unlike Carter, McCaw hasn’t 100 per cent confirmed he will move on from the All Blacks. New Zealand rugby currently has the regulation that you need to be playing Super Rugby in New Zealand to play for the All Blacks. It’ll be interesting to see if McCaw is offered the opportunity to only play for the All Blacks. Many experienced players pace themselves through Super Rugby anyway, so it’s hard to imagine too many fans would oppose the greatest All Black of all time being made an exception to the rule.
Some will want McCaw to move on and protect his legacy, but what they forget is that ultimately sport isn’t about legacies – what made Dan Carter and Richie McCaw great in the first place is that they love playing rugby. If McCaw wants to play on, he should be selected until there someone better is available. Currently the next best, Sam Cane, is still a long way off being as good as McCaw.
If McCaw does decide to hang up his boots now there will be something special about him going out at the same time as the man who with him steered this All Black team to greatness.