Dan Carter still Southbridge club's favourite son

HARD GOING: All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter during the match between Southbridge and Glenmark at Southbridge Park on Saturday.
HARD GOING: All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter during the match between Southbridge and Glenmark at Southbridge Park on Saturday.

There was no hero worship of King Carter at fog-wreathed Southbridge on Saturday - on the pitch, anyway.

When the All Blacks ace hit the deck, there was a bellow from the Glenmark bench: "Ruck him!" Even Dan Carter quipped later he was "quite surprised not to get a couple of stripes on the back" as a souvenir of his first home game at Southbridge Park for 15 years.

"I made a tackle and fell awkwardly on their side [of the ruck] and I'm lucky they left me alone. I wouldn't have minded a couple of little war scars to show the Crusaders boys on Monday."

Several thousand people turned out to see their favourite son play the first 40 minutes - or not see him. A pea-soup thick fog rolled in around Lincoln as a cavalcade of cars streamed out to Southbridge and most spectators had to strain to see the man of the moment.

Scores of kids and former footy players - including Southbridge's only other All Black, Albert Anderson - paid homage at Carter's first game since he hobbled off Twickenham during the All Blacks' victory over England in November.

Their favourite son did not disappoint. Carter kicked 10 points from two penalties and two conversions and created two tries with a clever crosskick and a cutout pass in his 40-minute cameo as Southbridge smashed Glenmark 51-10 in a playoff for the Canterbury Combined Country competition minor placings.

He hurled himself into his tackles but did not run much and admitted he was "easing myself into it" on a ground "that's heavier than I'm used to".

Still, a ripple of anticipation swept through the crowd during Southbridge's halftime huddle. "Will he play on?" was the question on many a pair of blue-veined lips. But hopes were dashed when Dapper Dan donned a jacket as the referee blew for the second half to resume.

Halfback Michael Sheat - a senior player for eight years - said Saturday was "an awesome experience" for the club's young players.

"We've got a few guys from overseas and for them just to meet Dan is an honour, let alone to be able to say they played with him."

He said Carter had the club at heart and had "put on a bar tab for the boys" when Southbridge won the 2012 and 2013 Combined Country finals.

Carter's father, Neville, and his uncles played for Southbridge before him. Neville's still serves as the club's bar manager and division two team coach.

Ex-All Black lock Anderson, who played for Southbridge for "30-odd years" from a nipper to a senior, said it was great to see Carter on Southbridge Domain. The players would "talk about this for the rest of their lives".

Carter was not expecting a free after-match ale.

"I hope the old man's shouting, he's normally behind the bar but he'll make me get my wallet out, I'm sure."

The Press