Beauden Barrett’s style game


His child­hood was spent climb­ing trees and roam­ing far and wide around the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Taranaki coastal town of Pun­garehu, pop­u­la­tion in the low hun­dreds. It’s an un­likely breed­ing ground for the stylish All Black first-five, even if he’s quick to deny the la­bel, firmly pro­claim­ing: “I’m not sure I would call my­self stylish.” And yet, when it comes to choos­ing from the clothes we’ve as­sem­bled for him to wear, he has an unerring eye for qual­ity, grav­i­tat­ing nat­u­rally to the likes of the Prada and Louis Vuit­ton gar­ments.

And when he turns up to the shoot, he’s all ur­ban cool in drop-crotch cargo pants, teamed with a sim­ple crew­neck black knit and box-fresh, stark white Adi­das train­ers. He credits girl­friend Han­nah Laity as his style ad­viser: “I’m not one to worry too much about it, so long as it’s clean,” he pro­fesses. “And Adi­das are a great spon­sor. I also en­joy New Zealand brands. Other than that I don’t have to branch out too much.”

It’s a far cry from his ear­li­est years, when he was one of just 50 pupils at the lo­cal pri­mary school.

“We’d rock up to school in our bare feet and farm clothes,” he re­calls, “and just used to look for­ward to play­ing cops and rob­bers or rugby at play­time.” In fact, if you wore shoes to school you were likely to come in for some mer­rci­less teas­ing.

“I couldn’t imag­ine a bet­ter place to be brought up,” says Beauden. “Acres of land to run around on, so much free­dom and oc­ca­sion­ally you had to help on the farm, milk­ing

cows or help­ing Mum cook din­ner for a large fam­ily.”

Beauden is one of eight chil­dren, and the fam­ily have al­ways been lo­cal le­gends in their own quiet way. Dad Kevin – who ev­ery­one knows as Smi­ley – played for Taranaki and was an All Black tri­al­list. Mum Robyn rep­re­sented the prov­ince in net­ball and was in the un­der-19 New Zealand bas­ket­ball team. “I think I get my run­ning from her,” says Beauden. The se­nior Bar­retts are farm­ers who still do their own milk­ing and have al­ways been in­volved in com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties.

The fam­ily re­cently found them­selves in the national spot­light when two of Beauden’s brothers were named to join the All Blacks – Scott at lock and Jordie, who plays at full­back, as a non-play­ing ap­pren­tice.

Al­though there have been sets of brothers pre­vi­ously in the team, if the three ever take the field at the same time it will be a first.

It’s not sur­pris­ing the trio have reached the top of the rugby tree. The ju­nior Bar­retts were raised with the phi­los­o­phy that if you did any­thing you aimed for the top, al­though Beauden makes his up­bring­ing sound laid back.

“I’m the second old­est of eight kids, so work­ing in a team has al­ways been some­thing I’ve en­joyed,” he ex­plains. “All of us kids, pulling our weight, do­ing our chores and then car­ry­ing that on into rugby teams and go­ing right through to reps. We had two bam­boo stumps for goal posts and a mas­sive lawn we used to play cricket and rugby on.”

At other times the pres­sure def­i­nitely went on: “When cross-coun­try was com­ing up, Mum would pick up our bags from school and say, ‘Run home.’ Four kilo­me­tres down a tar-seal track in bare feet.”

With the boys play­ing for var­i­ous teams around the coun­try it’s been an or­gan­i­sa­tional chal­lenge for their par­ents and the rest of the fam­ily to sup­port them all.

“At least these days it can all be watched on TV,” says Beauden, “whether it’s my brothers down in Can­ter­bury or me up in Welling­ton.”

“We had two bam­boo stumps for goal posts and a mas­sive lawn we used to play cricket and rugby on”

It’s a long way from Pun­garehu Pri­mary to the in­ter­na­tional sport­ing spot­light, but Beauden says that his child­hood was the per­fect prepa­ra­tion for han­dling the de­mands.

“You get caught up in the heat of it all and the lime­light and the amaz­ing­ness of the All Black brand and that team. But noth­ing much fazes us on the farm. You’re pretty chilled out and that does rub off on the rugby field. Peo­ple tell me that I look so com­posed and so calm, so maybe I do get that from the farm.”

Beauden’s big break came when he made the New Zealand Sevens side.

“I was play­ing sevens out of school for Taranaki over sum­mer to keep fit. Then Sir Gor­don Ti­et­jens picked me out of that. And it was just un­be­liev­able the first time I played against men. That was when I thought I could make some­thing out of it. I was okay at school but I never re­ally had that be­lief. So that gave me a lot of con­fi­dence.”

At 18, he put univer­sity and vague plans for a busi­ness ca­reer on hold and got a part-time job in or­der to con­cen­trate on hon­ing his fit­ness and skills.

Off the field, he and Han­nah like to travel, “whether it’s over the hill to Mart­in­bor­ough or a road trip up to Taranaki or go­ing back to Auck­land to Han­nah’s fam­ily. In the sum­mer, shoot­ing over to Fiji or some­where else over­seas is also nice.” Back home, he re­laxes by catch­ing up with fam­ily and friends or play­ing golf on the tiny Pun­garehu golf course, which is ac­tu­ally on a lo­cal farm.

Now, at 25, he’s one of the most ac­claimed and pop­u­lar play­ers to join the jug­ger­naut that is the cur­rent national team, and he has nearly 73,000 Twit­ter and 172,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers to show for it.

Griz­zled old sports writ­ers are reach­ing for su­perla­tives to de­scribe his per­for­mance, with many pre­dict­ing that the best is yet to come. And as our pho­tos show, when it comes to fash­ion, he’s al­ready ahead of the field.

Bark­ers jumper, $89.95. OP­PO­SITE: Gubb & Mackie jacket, $395. Bark­ers T-shirt, $29.99. Bark­ers jeans, $129.99.Hair: Michael Beel. Groom­ing: Kendyl from MAC.@beau­den­bar­rett

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