By The Spotter
THERE ONCE WAS A 7 NAMED MCCAW;
WHO EXCELLED WITH THE BALL ON THE FLOOR;
THOUGH DID THEY BLEAT, THEY SAID, “HE’S A CHEAT”;
BUT GOD, WHAT A BORE, GO LEARN THE LAW;
…AND TAKE A LOOK AT OUR BLIMIN’ SCORE.
There was one particular still image during the victory haka that the All Blacks performed on Twickenham with the Webb Ellis Cup that was extremely revealing.
At one particular stage some of the players are smiling to a degree and most look in high spirits. But wearing the same fearsome look that he had displayed in the pre-match haka, was the one and only R.H. McCaw, the world’s ultimate oval ball warrior. That’s probably molten steel in the man’s Weetbix, not milk. Never hardly has a more determined individual pulled on an international jersey.
One could perhaps have envisioned Richie uttering or thinking a similar thing as ‘Pinetree’ Meads (the other true legend of the ABs) once did when his hooker Bruce McLeod whispered to him that the Springboks forwards looked more than ready before a test match in the 60s. Meads, still eyes front and with a grim stare, is reported to have bristled back “Yeah, well I’m f***king ready, too”.
In fact, was there ever a test where MCaw didn’t play like a man possessed and looked thoroughly ‘ready’? You would have to say definitely not. It is simple now to understand why Steve Hansen took one look at McCaw operating at secondary school level and knew immediately that he was destined to be a star. It appears the drive and determination was in his DNA right from the very beginning.
Richie’s greatest match for the All Blacks? I would go for an incredible performance when we kept the Springboks scoreless in a Cape Town test in August 2008. My wife and I remember feeling spellbound at the way he was into everything for the full eighty and seemed to be getting increasingly energetic and determined as the game wore on. Talk about leading by example, it was quite magnificent. The longer the Boks stayed on nil, the more the team and him tore into them to keep them to nothing.
And did he ever finish a match without cuts all over his face? He often played to the limit of the law and there is no doubt he was a marked man for the best part of his career. Some said he cheated, but by that rationale you could say that other greats of the era like England’s Martin Johnson and Australia’s George Smith, who played to the edge of the law at times, did also.
It is an unfair accusation in my book. ‘Cheat’ is a strong word- it implies an inherent and underhanded desire to do wrong for advantage. McCaw got away with a bit at the breakdown at times like most other forwards, but was he an out-and-out cheat like half of England would have us believe? Hardly.
And all that booing? As a nation we should take it as a back-handed compliment. You and I know that the best are jeered at mainly because they are the biggest threat to the home team’s chances of victory. If Richie had just been Joe Average they wouldn’t have bothered.
So, all the best to you Mr Richard Hugh McCaw and thanks so much for all the fantastic memories and for being the epitome of what a perfect All Black is.
Contact me anytime to chat sport: firstname.lastname@example.org