Tas­man’s new prop puts fam­ily first

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - CLASSIFIED INDEX - TONY SMITH

New Tas­man Mako sign­ing Wy­att Crock­ett says his de­sire to ‘‘never, ever want to let the All Black jersey go’’ was a ma­jor rea­son for him spend­ing his en­tire ca­reer in New Zealand.

The 35-year-old — who an­nounced his test re­tire­ment on Tues­day af­ter 71 caps - said al­low­ing his sons the chance to ‘‘en­joy a New Zealand child­hood’’ was an­other fac­tor be­hind his loy­alty.

Top qual­ity front row­ers can com­mand strato­spheric salaries in Europe but Crock­ett, who will end his ca­reer back where it be­gan - in the top of the south with two Mitre Cup sea­sons for the Tas­man Mako, is part of a small le­gion of All Black loy­al­ists to have re­sisted the over­seas lu­cre lure.

Asked why he had not looked off­shore, Crock­ett said: ‘‘There’s a cou­ple of rea­sons’’.

‘‘Firstly, I love liv­ing in New Zealand and play­ing rugby in New Zealand,’’ Crock­ett said at a press con­fer­ence in Christchurch.

‘‘The Cru­saders is a spe­cial group ... [it’s a team] I as­pired to play for, grow­ing up, and also the All Blacks.

‘‘To play for the All Blacks is some­thing that’s just an in­cred­i­ble thing for my­self and my fam­ily.

‘‘Once I be­came an All Black, I thought ‘I never ever want to let this go’.

‘‘So I never wanted, I sup­pose, to leave too early and have any re­grets there.’’

Crock­ett and wife Jenna also wanted their ‘‘two amaz­ing boys’’, Sonny and Em­mett, to ‘‘en­joy a New Zealand child­hood and have that op­por­tu­nity to grow up here’’.

Fam­ily fac­tors were the pull for Crock­ett to reach for the phone and call All Blacks coach Steve Hansen early in the New Year to tell him his test time was done.

‘‘Last year I had thought about it and looked some op­tions. Over the sum­mer, spend­ing time with the fam­ily and re­flect­ing on some dif­fer­ent things, it be­came re­ally clear to me that it was the right thing to do.’’

Crock­ett es­ti­mated that All Blacks spent ‘‘about 180 days a year away from our fam­i­lies’’.

‘‘It’s tough on us, and it’s in­cred­i­bly tough on our fam­i­lies as well.’’

Crock­ett has played a record 188 matches for the Cru­saders since 2006 - the high­est tally of any Su­per Rugby player - and hopes to com­plete 200 ap­pear­ances by the end of the sea­son.

He won a Rugby World Cup win­ners medal in 2015 af­ter suf­fer­ing the heart­break of a tour­na­ment end­ing groin in­jury in the quar­ter­fi­nal, but sin­gles out his All Blacks de­but against Italy as his most mem­o­rable mo­ment.

‘‘For me, I was 26, it had taken me a num­ber of years of be­ing a pro­fes­sional player ... so to reach a goal you had set your­self for that first time was in­cred­i­bly spe­cial.

‘‘For my fam­ily, my par­ents and my wife, that was in­cred­i­bly spe­cial also. That’s a stand­out.’’

Crock­ett isn’t the first modern era All Black to spend his en­tire ca­reer in New Zealand - Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock trod the same trail, but his de­vo­tion to the game re­mains a rar­ity.

NZ Rugby chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Tew, who was in Christchurch for Crock­ett’s press con­fer­ence, said the na­tional union were ‘‘in­cred­i­bly grate­ful for the loy­alty Crocky has shown the game here’’.

‘‘He’’s be­come an in­sti­tu­tion, not just at Rugby Park in Christchurch but New Zealand rugby.’


Wy­att Crock­ett, with NZ Rugby chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Tew at his press con­fer­ence in Christchurch

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