Daniel Carter, after 19 professional seasons and just a few weeks short of turning 39, has announced his retirement from all rugby.
The man many would say is the greatest No 10 to have played the game, after winning 112 test caps for the All Blacks in which time he became the most prolific points scorer in the history of rugby, says his body could push on for another few years, but his mind has checked out.
Having won Super Rugby titles, Rugby Championships, World Cups, the French Top 14, Heineken Cup and Japanese Top League, Carter felt he’d won everything he could in the game and had nothing left to prove.
He says that after a brief stint with the Blues last year – which came after he had three years in France with Racing 92 in Paris and then two-and-a-bit seasons with Kobe Steelers in Japan – he realised he no longer had the motivation to push himself as hard as he would need to be competitive in New Zealand.
And with too much uncertainty about travelling in and out of New Zealand, he lost interest late last year in playing overseas, so he decided it was time to retire and spend more time with his three children, with a fourth on the way.
At the heart of his decision was a realisation about who he really is and why he was playing. Even at 38, Carter came to see that his desire to play was driven by a need to play at his best and be part of a winning team. He couldn’t turn up just for the pay cheque, something he suspected he would be in danger of doing if he carried on playing.
“After experiencing rugby in Japan I thought I could squeeze a few more years out of my body,” he says. “There was something really enjoyable about being part of that environment and the culture we had at the Kobe Steelers. I was playing rugby and enjoying it and wasn’t sure when I would stop.
“I got forced back by Covid in March and was gutted about that. I was coming off contract and I guess the frustrations of not being able to finish the Japanese season and then going to the Blues for a little bit, I loved that. I loved being part of the team environment but going through that process it made me realise that I play to be the best player out on the field.
“That is my drive and it always has been and I just didn’t have that drive back here in New Zealand. I had nothing to prove and nothing to get my motivation levels up to where they should have been to play against all those young bucks here.
“That kind of made me ask whether I wanted to play in New Zealand or not. I was looking for new contracts because I thought that was a way to provide for my family. When I realised the age my kids are and the amount of work Honor [Carter’s wife] was doing looking after them while I was away chasing my dream, it made me realise it was time to stop. The more I took time off the more I realised I didn’t want to play overseas and not having the drive to play here I knew in my mind the time was right.”
The obvious question he had to ask himself as he contemplated retirement, was what next? He’d been a professional player since 2002 and rugby is all he has known in his adult life.
As one of the best tacticians the game has known and a supremely good technical kicker, he has had offers to move into coaching but says that is not for him.
Top League chairman Osamu Ota has joined other leading rugby bosses in throwing support behind the concept of a Club World Cup.https://t.co/XEqXGTEO6N
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 20, 2021
Not full-time at least. “Rugby is what I know and love and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge that I would like to share,” he says.
“But my mentality is all about winning and if I got into coaching I would be all in and I would commit to that. I would work around the clock and I know how hard coaches work. They lose their weekends. They are in before the players, leave after them and work on the days the players are recovering.
“My reasons for retiring are to spend more time with the family. I would love to be involved in some way. Exactly what it is yet I am not sure. But I can’t commit. I like a bit of flexibility and I am working on a few projects that I am passionate about both overseas and in New Zealand.”
In an emotional Instagram post Carter said he had thought about the day he called it quits many times.
“I can’t thank everyone who has played a part in my journey enough – from my team mates, opponents, coaching and management teams, sponsors and in particular you, the fans.
“A special mention to my friends and family who have supported and guided me through my career. Mum and Dad, thank you for everything you have sacrificed for me. My wife Honor for being my rock and allowing me to fulfill my dreams while raising our beautiful family – I can’t thank you enough.”
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