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Richie McCaw: From silver fern to silver screen

Exclusive: Richie shares his thoughts with MiNDFOOD about Chasing Great, the new film revealing his journey from small-town Kiwi kid to legendary All Black captain that opens across New Zealand tomorrow.

Richie McCaw: From silver fern to silver screen

Has the film given you the chance to reflect on how you got to here?

When we were doing interviews reflecting on my younger days and at school and even before that, one of the things is that you never really think about some of the things that shape why you did certain things … you just get stuck in doing what you’re doing and then you wonder what caused this or that.

For example, I kind of knew it, but an opportunity to be in the first fifteen in 2008 when it was my last year at school, got me pretty much into the [top-level rugby] system.  Steve Hansen talked about watching me play in that final.

Little things like that – a small moment in time can have a big influence. Even going to boarding school, the opportunities that you get down there, that’s a decision that my folks made that I got some great opportunities from. Having a coach who I guess instilled the sort of enjoyment and the skills that I wanted in a rugby sense.

It’s all those little things that add up through the years.

Your family is a big part of this, too.

Absolutely. They got a huge thrill out of being able to go along to games. One of the stories I tell is: they got invited to one of the boxes at a test match and after the game all Dad was talking about is, he got to meet some of the old All Blacks. He wasn’t actually worried about the game.

From where we came from it probably seemed a long way off, if not impossible, a few years back.

It’s nice to say thanks for their support. They’ve been huge – they go along to most games, same with my sister and the extended family – so hopefully they can enjoy [the film] as well.

Tell us about weighing up the risks of doing the film?

Obviously it was going to alter what the story was at the end – whether we’d won or lost at the World Cup. But, had we not won, I still would have given absolutely everything and I’m sure I would have sat there disappointed but going, ‘Well, I did everything.’

But what I want people to take out of it is how you actually go about preparing for those things, what it takes to turn up to a tournament like that.  And there’s no guarantees.

That’s why we keep turning up, so that’s I guess the reason I know the story would have still have been able to be told.

What about choosing to open up in this way?

When I was playing rugby through my career, I was always quite keen to make sure I kept some of the private stuff private, rather than throw everything out there. It wasn’t for any reason other than I just felt that was the right thing to do.

I was a rugby player and that’s what people saw. I was happy to give as much as I could there but I wanted to protect friends and family.

But I got to the end and one of the reasons for doing this is: I took a lot out of the opportunities I got, and this is a chance to try and inspire perhaps some young kids or show that you don’t have to be given some superhuman talent to fulfil your dreams.

I thought it was a chance to show a little bit about where I came from, how I ended up being able to play for the All Blacks for a number of years, and what it actually takes. That’s not something magic, it’s a bit of dedication, hard work.

What do you think of the film?

The process has been pretty long now – it’s coming up two years since we actually started and to get where we’ve got to now is pretty amazing.

I didn’t really know how this or that was going to fit in or what was going to fit in, and a lot of things that we filmed aren’t in there – just because you can’t have too much. But to get the story we got … when I sit here now, I’m pretty proud of what everyone’s done to put it together.

What’s it been like watching your story unfold in that way?

I was a little bit intrigued as to how it would end up.  Not being a film-maker or having that creative side, I was intrigued to see. The first cut I got to see, I was like… I was probably more nervous than I am now. I thought, ‘How are they going to put this together?’

But it’s pretty cool how it has been put together. One thing I wanted to make sure was that there’s no sort of exaggeration about anything, it was factual.  I gave other people a chance to talk frankly, good or bad. I didn’t want to be influencing anyone either way. I haven’t had to ring too many of my mates and say. ‘Hey, what did you say that for?’ so that’s good.

What surprised you in the film?

One bit I did enjoy was the drama of me as a young fella. It actually was pretty much exactly what happened.  So, being able to show that was pretty cool. We’re pretty lucky having some of the footage that Dad took when we were young.  You know, I never thought it would end up in the movie theatres.  I’m sure Dad didn’t think that either but those things are pretty cool.

Do you think it has a strong message for kids?

The outcome is what you’re after, but you come back to the process and what it takes, and that’s what I want people to see. You don’t just rock up on a Saturday – there’s a whole lot of hard work that goes into it and there’s no substitute for that hard work.

I think sometimes people want it now, and they try and find a place that will give it to them rather than working hard for it.

I wanted to show that to be an All Black, or to be successful in whatever, you’ve got to figure out a path to get there or a path for that week when it counts, and that’s tough. I wanted to show that things are possible when you put the effort in. And if that’s what a youngster takes out of it, that things are possible, and if you can inspire one or two kids, that’s pretty cool.

You had to revisit 2007 in the film

“Yeah, well nothing’s perfect along the way, but talking about 2007, that is a pretty tough. I certainly didn’t get things right. We all probably didn’t get things right.  But ironically probably… I look back now and say it’s one of the most important times I had as a rugby player, and perhaps as a person as well.  If you don’t experience the tough times, you don’t appreciate when you do succeed, how good it can be and the lessons I learnt through that were huge. There’s a quote in there, “success is a lousy teacher” and when you go through the tough times you really have to have a look at yourself as to what you got wrong, and then you’ve gotta face uncomfortableness and if you do that and then come out the other side of it, that’s more satisfying than just having an easy road.”



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