Richie McCaw: what you see is what you get

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 28/04/2012
Richie McCaw
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
RICHIE MCCAW: 'What you see is what you get.'

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Richie McCaw said something rather profound this week and here's hoping his message will resonate in this age of plastic public personas cultivated by artificial means; fame achieved in such dubious and fleeting fashion.

"It is not rocket science," he says of a life in the public eye.

"I presume it would become difficult if the way you are behind closed doors is different to any front you have to put up.

"With me though it is `what you see is what you get, ya know'. I don't have to pretend to do or be anything."

Ah, blessed honesty. Remember that?

In this day and age of massaging and manipulation of public figures, such straightforward splendour is a welcome relief.

McCaw is that rare beast who's essentially a private person who lives his life in public. He does not openly flaunt his success and would spare us the trouble of trying to find any deeper meaning to his being and place in society, because "what you see is what you get".

He is, his actions attest, a normal bloke, the only difference being he "is good at rugby and is on TV a lot". While McCaw, our victorious All Blacks captain, may be simplifying things, the invitation to indeed see whether "what you see is what you get" has been accepted by a McCaw-hungry society like no previous skipper. We all want our piece of Richie, hence his life is a much-thumbed-through open book.

For example, we know he and Dan Carter are the highest-paid All Blacks, and although the precise amount has never been confirmed, some fairly accurate estimates, with help from some obliging sources, have been made over the years.

Similar assumptions can be made about what McCaw does with all that cash.

For example, with a little digging through public records, it's possible to find out McCaw opted to invest in elderly care rest home facilities.

He has shares in several.

Tellingly also, fellow investors include a collection of reasonably prominent and wealthy landowners from the Oamaru area, where McCaw was brought up, which tells us something about the associations and bonds McCaw has forged, kept and trusts.

We can also, much to McCaw's amusement, find out details of his academic record.

Much has been made of McCaw's intelligence, notably by others, rather than himself. One of his former professors at Lincoln University recently gushed during a radio interview she awarded McCaw several A grades while he was under her tutelage.Life in the public eye was never meant to be effortless.

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But Richie McCaw makes it look so damn easy.

Well, it seems there are two golden rules. The first is: "You do not have to try hard if you are the same in public as you are in private."

The second is: "Guys get in trouble when they live day to day".

Instead of having a personal assistant on hand to sort out his life it would appear McCaw is a pretty good keeper of time too.

"Last week was a good example," he says.

"I had some things to do in Auckland on Wednesday. I was back in Christchurch Thursday morning for training and then back to Auckland that night for a dinner with Graham Henry. I came back to Christchurch Friday morning in time for Crusaders training and then in the afternoon I received my honorary doctorate from Lincoln University. Saturday I went to the game in Wellington and by the end of it I was glad the week was over. The trick is to plan things to do a good job of what you do commit to."

McCaw says he is conscious about overdoing things, but the reality is most weeks are packed with engagements.

"It's of my own doing too," he admits.

"January to now has been really busy because I have tried to fit in learning to fly a helicopter around all the other stuff.

"I generally do a fair bit of work with my personal sponsors at this time of the year too. I have got better at saying no to a lot of opportunities during the rugby season, which really starts for me now, because doing well there is always my main priority."

Most weeks he sits in front of his home computer and inserts into his calendar his commitments outside of the game.

"The rugby stuff comes to my calendar from the [team] server and you have it here right in front of you. I plug in most of my other stuff on the computer at home including the odd day off once in a while. The reality is I now have to say no to most requests. Most people understand why."

One of those came a few months back when McCaw was invited back to the tiny north Otago village of Kurow where he was born and raised.

His parents sold the family farm and moved away several years ago, but McCaw still has close ties to the rural region and is a regular visitor to nearby Omarama.

He confesses he sometimes flies down over his folk's old patch of dirt "for a nosey".

Kurow wanted to share in Richie's Rugby World Cup success and devised their version of the celebration street parades in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, by lining their tiny main street with bales of hay and welcomed Richie "home".

The now owners of the former McCaw spread reacquainted themselves and wanted Richie to know the goalposts his dad made for him were not for sale despite overtures from several interested buyers.

That's right. Several opportunists had made offers to buy the old goalposts Richie used when he was a midget. Now that's fame.

An amused McCaw said: "They are only a couple of old fence posts."

It is those moments of mirth and reward which keep McCaw going in the job.

- The Press

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