Cory Jane never wanted to be a winger.
It happened by accident - he was forced into the role.
Jane started his Heretaunga College rugby career at first five-eighth and some of those skills are evident in his game today; the cool, calm composure under pressure his most notable trait.
Jane's unflappable, cheeky nature is reflected in his free-spirited playing style.
“I like to have a bit of fun, sometimes I take it to the limit a bit too much but that's what I do. That's who I am. It's a good team to be around when you can be yourself,” he said.
Even before Jane became a first choice All Black, the questionable hairdos - the dreads, long locks and blond streaks - highlighted his relaxed demeanour.
“He's gone through all sorts of hairstyles,” Hurricanes and All Blacks team-mate Conrad Smith said.
There's no-one quite like Jane in the All Blacks, no-one even close.
“He's always been a unique character,” Smith added.
“Most people appreciate he does things a bit differently to others, certainly for myself, but he enjoys himself and when he plays well, it's good to watch. We played club rugby against each other and he was super talented back then. He's one of those guys that's a luxury to have around.”
Three years ago Jane stumbled upon his rightful place in the backline. Coach Graham Henry chucked him on the wing out of necessity. He has never looked back.
Jane is now one of, if not the best winger in the world - last week's hat-trick against the Pumas showcased his superb range of skills - pace, vision, anticipation, execution.
“We played France in 2009 and Rudi Wulf got injured and they threw me onto the wing. Since then I haven't really played fullback,” Jane recalls.
Initially Jane pushed back. He considered himself a fullback. That's where he wanted to be.
Not until this season with the Hurricanes did Jane make the full-time switch and accept that is where he now belongs.
“Once I got a bit of a turn at fullback I always wanted to play there but I ended up playing on the wing for the All Blacks. I played a couple of good games there and haven't moved since.
“I worked at it and instead of umming and aahing. I learnt everything there is to know about how to play wing.”
Jane hasn't completely dispelled his fullback intuition. His mistake-free security under the high ball is testament to those invaluable qualities.
As one of the smaller wingers in New Zealand - if not world rugby - Jane has learnt to adapt. You won't see him crunching it up in midfield too often - that's not his strength. But give Jane a morsel of room on the outside and he'll blitz you.
These days he's a creator as much as a finisher.
While Jane won't set any bench-press records, his remarkably powerful fend is a lethal weapon.
“It's a bit hard now and then when there's moves for wings to crash it up . . . those guys are massive and I'm tiny, but I'm getting good at knowing my game, what I do well, and not trying to do what other people can do.”
Jane sits perfectly in the late bloomer category. The 29-year-old isn't getting any younger but is on the upward curve.
Offers from overseas have rolled in, but for now, Upper Hutt remains home.
“I could have moved into town. It would have made life a lot easier being closer to training. But I'm from there, that's where my family is. I'm comfortable because I've been there for so long. I love Upper Hutt.” Fairfax NZ
- The Dominion Post
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