How to Raise a Sports Champion – McCaw Makes Plan to be GAB
Posted by Dean Holden at July 30th, 2015
by Dylan Cleaver, 8 May 2015
When Richie McCaw retires, probably at the end of this year, he will do so as arguably the greatest All Black of all time. While that maybe disputed, few if any would have him outside the top three.
He is also a best-selling author, having penned Richie McCaw – The Open Side with Greg McGee. As it relates to this series, the most fascinating chapter in the book was one headed G.A.B..
To cut a longer story shorter, McCaw was at McDonald’s in Timaru with his uncle John McLay, or Uncle Bigsy. McCaw had been selected for trials for the 1999 New Zealand under-19 squad and was showing his uncle the summer programme they had been given to keep fit.
“You want to be in the New Zealand under-19s,” Uncle Bigsy said. “Do you want to be an All Black?”
McCaw answered in the affirmative, so a serviette was produced and the pair mapped out how he was going to achieve that goal.
The reason it is so fascinating is because, even though it is only 16 years ago, it feels like it is from another time.
While in his first year at Lincoln University studying Agricultural Science, McCaw wanted to make the New Zealand U19s and Canterbury U19s. The following year, he wanted to make the New Zealand Colts.
From there, he would make the Canterbury U21s and, following that, the Canterbury senior team.
They figured that, after the 2003 World Cup, a few players would head overseas and he would make the Crusaders and, everything going to plan, the All Blacks in 2004.
Uncle Bigsy didn’t stop there, making McCaw commit to being a Great All Black.
McCaw couldn’t summon the courage to write it out in full, so he scribbled G.A.B. and then, under his uncle’s watchful eye, signed it and later pinned it to a cupboard back home.
Given McCaw’s genius for openside flank play, the chances are he would have made it at anything, but Uncle Bigsy’s role should not be minimised. With McCaw’s signature, he had effectively signed his first contract, which owed everything to intrinsic motivation and nothing to monetary reward.
As it turned out, McCaw played for the All Blacks in 2001, a little less than two years after signing the ‘contract’. His G.A.B status was sealed a few years later when he was named Tana Umaga’s successor as All Blacks captain.
The other curious thing about the contract? Very few schoolboy stars – McCaw was a very good schoolboy player but perhaps just short of a star – would be satisfied to wait five years to be an All Black. They want it now.
The game has changed forever.