Carl Hayman: It was time to be selfish
Carl Hayman admits he has made a "selfish" decision in turning his back on the All Black jersey and the chance to win that elusive World Cup in New Zealand next year.
The 30-year-old former All Black, who had been heavily courted by the New Zealand Rugby Union to make a return later this year, agreed to what's purported to be a $1.25 million-a-year deal to join Tana Umaga's Toulon club in the south of France once his current contract with Newcastle ends in May.
That came as a massive setback to the World Cup plans of All Blacks coach Graham Henry who had identified Hayman, a 45-test international prior to his departure following the 2007 tournament, as a "must-have" for 2011.
Hayman turned down an NZRU offer thought to be in the region of $700,000-a-year to sign a two-year deal with Toulon that makes him close to the highest-paid player in the game. Certainly the highest-paid non-international.
It will be a bitter blow for Henry who had regarded Hayman's presence in the crucial tighthead prop spot as vital for 2011. Now he's left with Neemia Tialata, Owen Franks and John Afoa as his principal contenders for the No 3 jersey.
Hayman conceded in an interview with Sky TV's Northern Exposure programme that he had essentially put the money ahead of his country.
"I thought long and hard about it for a while, but it's nice to have a bit of certainty and know what I'm doing," he said.
"I guess there were a number of reasons [I chose Toulon], and one of them was a bit of a financial decision to go to France.
"I'm 30, I don't know how many years I've got left in rugby - I'm sort of at a stage when I need to try to make every post a winner and put a few in the back kicker at the same time."
But Hayman denied that his decision to effectively put money ahead of playing for his country cheapened the All Blacks jersey in any way. It was merely a matter of him being at a stage in his life when it was time to be "selfish".
"I've [given] good service to the All Black jersey, I've been at the coalface just about every week of my career when I was in New Zealand, playing the 80 minutes every week.
"I've done my bloody dash. I guess there's a time in one's life and one's career when you have to be a bit selfish sometimes and think of yourself.
"Whereas up until I came to England, everything I did was for the All Black jersey and for my province. It was just one of those decisions in life you have to make. I'm sure most people put in the same scenario would do the same thing."
Hayman also told the show's host, Scotty Stevenson, that he had a pretty firm message for All Black fans disappointed by his decision.
"Oh, life goes on," shrugged the man rated the best tighthead in world rugby. "There will still be someone else in the All Black jersey they can cheer just as loud for."
In a typically frank interview, Hayman said he felt he'd achieved all he could in the international game, bar that elusive World Cup, and said he would "treasure" his time playing for New Zealand as long as he lived.
He was now invigorated by the change in lifestyle as he headed to the winterless south of France and life in the sleepy Mediterranean port. Also the chance to be part of an ambitious club, and compete in the Heineken Cup, was something else he was looking forward to.
Hayman confirmed that his ambition to return to New Zealand and set himself up on a dairy farm - something that had been a key part of the NZRU's offer - remained on his radar.
"Yeah, I'd like to do that at some stage. It's been the plan all along, even before I started playing footy. I always wanted to be out there cruising round on the farm bike mucking around with animals.
"That's a long-term plan of mine, and we'll see how the next stint goes and then go give it a crack."
Hayman also conceded that his wife, former TVNZ reporter Natalie Crook, was pretty happy with the move.
"It will be a bit warmer than Newcastle I'd imagine," he said. "It will keep her happy. I think she might have to start learning the lingo because it might take me a wee while to come to grips with it.
"She's pretty excited about heading over there - and it's the old story, happy wife, happy life."
Even if there are a few unhappy All Black fans wondering if they haven't just witnessed the first fracture in the grand plan to bring the World Cup back "home".