Dan Carter says playing his last-ever competitive game in front of just 300 people was the perfect way to end his illustrious career.
Carter, universally hailed as the greatest-ever rugby flyhalf, announced his retirement on Saturday.
The All Black Test centurion bows out with two World Cups, a Lions series win, four Super Rugby titles, two French Top 14 championships, one Japanese Top League title and three World Rugby Player of the Year awards to his name.
And yet, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he did not get the glamourous send-off that would befit a well-decorated player like himself. Carter, however, is more than happy with his farewell. He played his last game for his boyhood club, Southbridge, in front of 300 supporters.
‘To finish where it all started was pretty special,’ Carter told the Mail Online.
‘I first played there when I was six years old, for the Southbridge Midgets. I was always one of the first to arrive, even on freezing cold South Island mornings, because you would get a Moro chocolate bar and a can of Coke if you helped put out the flags.
‘Southbridge is a little town of about 700 people and all the boys play for the right reasons. They work all week, a lot of farmers, and play for the camaraderie and the beers afterwards. I went back and played a few games with my younger cousin, William, and we won the local Coleman Shield.
‘I didn’t realise at the time that it would be my last game but it was an awesome way to do it. Those guys are not aspiring to be future All Blacks or anything like that. They just play for the love of the game and it was quite refreshing to go back to that.’
‘My drive to be an All Black probably started before I joined Southbridge,’ he says. ‘When I was five the 1987 World Cup was hosted by New Zealand and Australia and John Kirwan scored this magical try against Italy. I was straight out in the backyard trying to copy it.
‘After we won that tournament my dream was to be an All Black. It’s not supposed to happen coming from a little country town but it was always the dream. It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 when things just moved really quickly.
‘When I played in my first cap I was a bright-eyed 21-year-old just thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?”‘ he recalls. ‘After that Test I sat there thinking, “I don’t want this feeling to ever stop”. I didn’t want to be a one-cap, five-cap, 10-cap All Black. I wanted to be an All Black great and I wanted to play for as long as I could. I had this obsession with winning.’
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