Farewell to AB mates

Waikato Times - - Front Page - MARC HINTON IN LYON

Hard-nosed half­back Taw­era Kerr-Barlow will bow out as an All Black just the way he prefers it – low key, do­ing his bit for the greater good and sur­rounded by his mates.

The 26-year-old Waikato and Chiefs No 9 will take a mo­ment at the end of the game against the French XV in Lyon to­day to soak it all in. It will, in all like­li­hood, bar­ring in­jury or the truly bizarre, be his last ap­pear­ance in an All Blacks jersey.

He won’t get to add to his 25 test caps on this tour un­less Aaron Smith or TJ Per­e­nara fall over some­where be­tween now and the Cardiff fi­nale for 2017. But in a funny sort of way, bat­tling away for a youth­ful, and dis­tinctly next gen­er­a­tion, All Blacks mid­week out­fit seems a fit­ting way for this ex­cel­lent half­back, and even bet­ter team man, to say good­bye.

He will join the La Rochelle club in the French Top 14 com­pe­ti­tion at the end of this tour (he says he still doesn’t know yet whether he will head straight there, or have time to make a quick trip home to grab a few be­long­ings) and the fact that he’s even on this trip af­ter sign­ing his new deal long ago says all you need to know about the es­teem with which he is held around the All Blacks.

He is an ex­cel­lent dis­trib­u­tor, fab­u­lous de­fender and staunch com­peti­tor who might well be oc­cu­py­ing the backup test po­si­tion in this his sixth year with the team had it not been for his de­ci­sion to ac­cept the deal on of­fer to take his tal­ents to France.

But there are no re­grets as he con­tem­plates quite pos­si­bly the last hitout as an All Black. He will have his lit­tle re­flec­tion when the time is right, but it will be brief, and it will be per­sonal, and it will al­most cer­tainly end with the abid­ing thought that he has been so lucky to have ex­pe­ri­enced what he has.

‘‘We’re in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion be in an All Blacks side,’’ he re­flected be­fore the match at Groupama Sta­dium. ‘‘I’m for­tu­nate to have one last go to be with my mates ... a great bunch of men, a great bunch of young men too who are go­ing to play this game. I never take any­thing for granted, and cher­ish every mo­ment.’’

In terms of any re­flec­tions that come, he says he has tried not to pre-de­ter­mine his emo­tions. ‘‘I try to just stay in the mo­ment and con­cen­trate on what I’ve got to worry about in the match, and what­ever hap­pens af­ter that hap­pens.

‘‘I’ve had the for­tu­nate op­por­tu­nity to have one more tour with all my mates. I’m just tak­ing every day as it comes, try­ing the best I can to con­trib­ute in what­ever way I can, and I’m for­tu­nate they’ve de­cided to give us a run.

‘‘It may be the last time I play with these guys for a while so we’ll go out and try have a bit of fun.’’

Kerr-Barlow smiles when it’s men­tioned he will face a quar­tet of his fu­ture la Rochelle team-mates on the field in Lyon. ‘‘We’ll go hard on the field, then we’ll share a hand­shake and I can maybe ask them a cou­ple of ques­tions af­ter the game.’’

The gritty half­back, who shook off a hor­rific 2014 knee in­jury that nearly wrecked his ca­reer, said he doesn’t know ex­actly when he’ll join his new club, but it wasn’t top of his pri­or­ity list right now.

‘‘My man­ager has still got to let me know, but I’m not re­ally con­cen­trat­ing on La Rochelle at the mo­ment. I’ve got this game, then the two games af­ter that, and it will come in good time. I’m just en­joy­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and try­ing to put my best foot for­ward.’’

With his mates. Com­pet­ing. Do­ing what he loves best.

"I never take any­thing for granted, and cher­ish every mo­ment."

Taw­era Kerr-Barlow

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