Richie McCaw: How does he stack up?
To judge Richie McCaw as the greatest All Black ever, you must travel through All Black history and line up his achievements against preceding players.
My generation tosses up a plethora of names. The Whetton brothers, the incomparable Michael Jones, John Kirwan, Colin Meads, Brian Lochore, Zinzan Brooke, John Gallagher and think of the readers spluttering in to their beverages at my omission of Fitzpatrick, Cullen, Wilson and Lomu.
My Dad's generation will tell you all about Ron Jarden, who retired at the pinnacle of his career to focus on his work. Going back even further you face players of the calibre of Cliff Porter (I got to meet him as a youngster), Dave Gallagher and the legendary George Nepia who had four test caps.
In the old days players set off on long tours, sometimes lasting months. They faced long journeys by sea, and arduous schedules of more than a game a week. These players were amateurs. They played purely for the love of the game, and while some dined out on their fame for years, for most it was pride in the jersey and not much else.
Compare that to the modern era, where players face the daunting decision of what tunes to download on their MP3 player. How many current All Blacks have been Rhodes scholars? How many are true role models for life? How many are working their way through studies when they're not playing? Do these things even count when deciding on what makes the best player ever? Or does it come down to pure playing genius?
Some players exude class, in all aspects of their lives. Some shine briefly and then are forgotten. The name Meads has endured for over 60 years and still commands respect. Will McCaw be the recipient of such reverence in 2055?
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