Goalpost setting of a different sort

HALLOWED GROUND: Bev and Neville Carter stand in front of the goalposts at  home in Southbridge where their celebrated rugby-playing son, Daniel, learnt to put his magic boot to a rugby ball.
CARYS MONTEATH/The Press
HALLOWED GROUND: Bev and Neville Carter stand in front of the goalposts at home in Southbridge where their celebrated rugby-playing son, Daniel, learnt to put his magic boot to a rugby ball.

Crossing the country's longest bridge by bike takes perfect timing and ignorance of the road rules.

Negotiating the 1.8-kilometre Rakaia River bridge yesterday was expected to be a challenge, as it is designed for two lanes of traffic and not much more.

Rakaia River Holiday Park operator Robyn Jackson advised against crossing by bike.

"Ring us and [husband] Ross will come across with the trailer and pick you up," she said.

But I was determined to restore some credibility after taking the easy option too often on this journey.

Good fortune and failing to obey a pilot vehicle waving a stop sign allowed a traffic-free crossing, while vehicles heading towards Rakaia waited for a house to be trucked over the bridge.

The only problem I had was the irate truck driver giving me an earful. Never mind, I made it.

Earlier yesterday, I went to an unlikely Southbridge tourist destination.

The home of Neville and Bev Carter, parents of All Black Dan Carter, has become a Graceland of sorts for star-spotters.

The Carters are bemused by the attention. "We just take it in our stride," Bev Carter says.

Visitors – many from overseas – arrive by the carload to take photos, kick rugby balls over the Carters' goalposts, and picnic on the lawn.

The posts were erected by Neville Carter for Dan's eighth birthday, when kicking goals over the house began putting windows at risk.

The grass is manicured, as if ready for a test.

A hectic schedule means Dan Carter is a rare sight in the town, but he did get back briefly for Christmas.

Southbridge Hotel publican Russell Guenole says residents respect Carter's space.

Carter's first test jersey, against Wales in 2003, hangs on the hotel wall, and Carter's Draught is on tap.

"He can sit in here and relax with a beer," Guenole says.

Neville Carter says Dan was happy to sign about 20 autographs in the pub on his recent visit. The Carters were well known in Southbridge long before their son laced a pair of boots. Neville and Bev Carter are Southbridge-born, and Neville's contribution to the community includes 37 years in the volunteer fire brigade and nearly 50 with the Southbridge Rugby Club.

"It's a great place to bring up children," Bev says.Neville and three of his brothers played in the backline for the senior rugby side in the early 1980s. Like Dan, he played at first five-eighth.

He says it was a joy to watch his son play his first senior game for the club while making his comeback from injury last year.

"It was quite a special day for us," he says. "Having your son playing was like feeling part of the club again from a different perspective."

Feeling good about the length of the ride into Rakaia, I backtracked to Doyleston, near Leeston.

It was suggested Kevin Taylor's collection of vintage David Brown tractors should not be missed.

Taylor owned several of the British-made machines during 30 years of farming, before restoring his first in 1992.

"I sort of got bitten by the vintage bug," he says.

Taylor's Doyleston display features 20 tractors, all in working order, 17 of which he rebuilt, and attracts international attention from enthusiasts.

"I like to keep them as near to original as possible, and not substitute bits," he says.

The Press