He’s one of the toughest and greatest first-fives in rugby history, but Dan Carter has admitted he used to “cry all the time” playing rugby when he was younger.
Quoted in the UK Daily Telegraph, Carter said his small stature caused him plenty of pain as a young player, having to regularly tackle opponents much larger than him – a clash which often ending in tears.
“I loved the games, but I didn’t love every part of them,” said Carter.
“I used to cry all the time, probably two or three times a game, because I was so small and my opponents so huge by comparison. But I would always just go on tackling.”
Carter credits that for his growth and improvement as a rugby player – learning to tackle properly because of being regularly in the way of intimidating opponents.
“Tackling those monsters hurt like hell, and I hated it. There would be times that I would just completely muck it up and get flattened, but that’s how you learn at that age. I still maintain that my technique came out of that period, a tiny kid always trying to tackle giants.”
Carter credited the hours spent perfecting his craft on areas such as tackling as the big reason why he became one of the great All Blacks.
“For all the rugby I played competitively as a kid, though, it was dwarfed by the hours I spent playing with my mates. That’s what I put my skill-set down to – those countless hours after school.
“There was a section alongside ours where my parents grew gherkins, bottling them to sell for a little extra cash. Then one summer my dad planted grass, so from then on we effectively had a rugby field alongside our house. That was our afternoon ritual for nearly a decade. I wonder how my life might have turned out if they’d never made that sacrifice. I likely wouldn’t have played nearly so much, and might never have acquired the skills I did without that endless repetition,” says Carter.
“Those games we played for pure pleasure were probably the reason I became an All Black. We were essentially running drills without knowing it: that’s where I learned to tackle, where I learned to pass, where I learned to kick.”
Despite the early tears, Carter’s years of youth rugby set him up perfectly for his lengthy career as an All Blacks star.
“I wasn’t aspiring to be an All Black back then; it was pure youthful enjoyment and fun. That’s where I built up the base of skills that has helped me through 13 years of professional rugby.”
Carter is currently travelling around New Zealand promoting the launch of his new book Dan Carter: My Story, before joining Paris-based side Racing Metro next week on a lucrative deal reportedly worth about $3 million a season.