Jan 3, 2016 People
Richie McCaw, legend, Prime Minister-at-large, glider pilot, died 2274.
This article was first published in the December 2015 issue of Metro. Illustration by Daron Parton.
It seems improbable now, but as far back as 2015, people were asking Richie McCaw if it was time to retire.
He was as polite as he could be. He even gave it a try for a bit. But his heart just wasn’t in it. He was back in training by February 2016.
Tournament after tournament, 69 times in total, he would raise the Rugby World Cup above his head, pump it a time or two, flash the shy grin, blood trailing down three or four different parts of him.
Everyone wanted a piece of Richie. His legend grew, day by day, year by year, century by century. He was brave. He was quiet. He could withstand colossal pain.
He would have made a very good leader of the Labour Party. But politics had always looked a bit noisy for Richie.
He was the sort of man who made you realise, just by the way he looked you in the eye, that you were talking bullshit. He was no Grizz Wyllie, but he had a way of treating each word like it was costing him a few dollars.
“Have you ever considered a voyage of spiritual discovery, like Thoreau in that marvellous book Walden?” John Campbell asked him in the 26-part documentary series Richie. “Two years, two months and two days away from everything and everybody. No yapping. Imagine it. Wouldn’t it be perfect?”
“Nah,” Richie said, and paused for a minute or two. Then he looked out into the distance for a while and added, “Nah.”
He said no to politics, he said no to directorships. He did eventually say yes to being Prime Minister-at-large. “You’d just be sorting shit out, basically,” King William told him. “Casual as you like.”
He was a sensation.
If a problem seemed beyond solving, you asked Richie.
If someone was being a dick, he sorted it.
Sometimes, he would think carefully, then tell you the answer. Usually the answer would be to work harder; to work so hard you sweated blood. It was harsh, as harsh as it gets, and yet when Richie said it to you, it just made sense.
Mostly, all it took was a slightly arched eyebrow.
He got internet providers to provide an actual bloody working connection.
He got people to stop bringing more than 12 items into the express lane, acting like they didn’t know the rules.
He got rid of that idiotic carry-on where you had to try to punch your name into a computer screen at
every office you visited.
He sorted out people who dumped their coffee cup in the office kitchen sink, like they couldn’t read any of the passive-aggressive notices.
He sorted out Touareg drivers parking in cycle lanes.
He brought peace to the Middle East in one four-hour conference. He was vastly praised but was typically modest. He said it was mostly a matter of getting Murray McCully out of the way.
But year after year, nothing made him come alive like rugby. When he was playing, nothing else mattered, and nothing could stop him.
“I honestly thought he’d peg out ages before now,” said sports writer Chris Rattue, who stayed alive for more than two and a half centuries hoping to prove a point. “Honestly, though, he’s pretty special. I couldn’t think of more than two or three other rugby players who could have every vital organ in their body crushed by a meteorite and live for another 50 years, let alone play South Africa.”
Richie McCaw was 294.