Life back on the farm
Andrew Hore debuted for the All Blacks as hooker on the northern hemisphere tour in 2002 and was an integral member of the team until 2013, playing 83 tests and scoring eight tries. He played for the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders in Super Rugby, a
THE biggest problem young guys have now is speaking to people, having an interview like this because they sit down, put their heads down and start texting. You can’t go to the pub and have a yarn because they are all on their phones. We used to have team dinners, but there would be 10 people on their phones, and our hardest job was getting them to meet and greet people.
That’s how it is, though. They’ve done nothing different since school and that’s the modern environment. You don’t even have to talk to a woman either, you just text her and the job’s done, and that might have served some of us ugly buggers better, but never mind.
When I left school, I was always going back to the farm; there was never any doubt about that. I suppose that was the reason I had to leave Otago, because I reached their standards through natural ability and staying on the farm instead of going to town and the gym.
It wasn’t until I went to Taranaki and the farm was miles away that I was forced to get into the gym much more. Being on the farm was awesome, but to get from a naturally fit footy player to the next level where you get pushed more was a case of changing from a parttime player to a fully concentrated lockedin footy player. It still wasn’t quite fulltime in Taranaki because we only trained Mondays and Tuesdays.
The easy part for me was when I thought I’d had enough rugby the farm was there; that was always going to be my life. Anton Oliver played the last few years because he didn’t know what his next chapter was going to be, but I always had that certainty. I enjoyed the money, but I wasn’t playing rugby to make money, I wasn’t going to go overseas to play for a club that meant nothing to me, although it could be a big mistake now that I’m paying the bills.
The reality is I’m similar to an oldstyle player who loved farming and regarded time off as farm time. I’m a much more contented soul there. It is where you grow up and what you know, and I was good at it because I didn’t enjoy the school side of things too much.
The old man never pressured me to come back to the farm, which has been in the family for more than a century and five generations. He never asked about rugby unless you wanted to discuss it and the same with farming, so it was enjoyable going out with him and learning stuff by being around him, watching and listening. There was never any conversation about whether you are coming home to farm — probably the opposite.
In 2000 when I went up to Taranaki I talked to him about going back to farming instead of playing rugby and he told me I was silly and to play all the footy I could.
My brother Charlie and I are in the process of splitting up the property, which is roughly two hours from Dunedin and two hours from Queenstown, because we bought the neighbour’s farm, so he’ll get that and my wife Frankie and I will get the home place.
We are set up for merinos because of the dry climate for wool and their lambs, and then beef for the hill country. We are understocked on about 46,000 acres [18,616ha], but when it’s split Frankie and I will have about 26,000 acres and that’ll be good, and the old man can live here until he’s in a box.
It’s home and it wasn’t until Frankie came down and started talking about all the great views and the scenery that you realise how lucky you are to live there.
We do all the mustering on horses, so in April we help with some syndicate mustering where we spend weeks staying in huts and getting the sheep in. We go to the neighbour’s place first, where there are no fences, and stay out for four nights in the huts.
At the end of 2013, I came back into farming fulltime. I’d sort of had enough and didn’t think I would make it to the 2015 World Cup. I fought with Keven Mealamu and Anton Oliver to get starts then on the way down another good kid, Dane Coles, came along who is bloody handy. We had a meeting about how long we were going to play and Kevvie was adamant he wanted to make it to 2015. I wasn’t going to get a Highlanders contract again so thought that would do me as far as rugby goes.
I was old school when they asked me about the World Cup. I felt there was a problem because it was getting to the stage where places were so guaranteed your mother didn’t ring to congratulate you any more.
Getting through 2014 was easy. I was done and enjoyed life and footy for the club, but when 2015 rolled around I thought it would have been cool to be there. Now it’s like: thank God I’m not playing that game any more where they get smashed up each week.
Rodney So’oialo was a good mate of mine at the Hurricanes and watching him hold on was not great. Instead of being remembered for the great player he was, he would come to training and try to get through it, and eventually I told him not to come to training because he was sucking it out of me.
I’ve always played for the Maniototo Maggots and had six games for them before the 2011 World Cup. It was much easier chasing the ball than running down the road and the coaches were fine about that. They worked out that a few of us liked a few beers and instead of saying no, they let us do our own thing. It ticked us over.
Matt O’Connell played at the club and way before that Tony Kreft, who drives for McLaren Transport. Tony Woodcock played for us when he was down here, and Hosea Gear, Tamati Ellison and James Haskell were all supposed to play but something happened. We struggle to get reserves, we have a 16yearold and then there’s me and the local policeman who is 42 and plays sometimes.
All Blacks physiotherapist Pete Gallagher drives up twice a week for our games and sorts out some surgeries and gives a great deal of his time and advice, so we rustle up some mutton to say thanks. I can’t imagine the English physio driving out to the boondocks to give that sort of assistance.
There was nothing like the golden hour after footy. You can go and watch a game and have a beer with players, but that hour in the changing room, talking, taking your boots off and having a beer, even as a dirtydirty it never felt the same because you hadn’t actually been involved. I’d put myself on the bench for Maniototo and have 20 minutes to feel part of it and that’s the best time, relaxing, having a few beers, a bit of banter about what happened.
When I first played for Otago we’d go into camp on Friday night before a Saturday game and people would stop talking then. Now you drive your car down an hour before kickoff. I think that mental side of the game has changed a huge amount — you don’t have to walk around from Tuesday looking grim to prove you are focused.
Moving between the isolation on the farm to the crowds in town was great; if you got sick of one you’d do the other. Losing the 2007 World Cup was OK for me because I could concentrate on the farm and down at the club it doesn’t matter if you played really good or bad. You’d go to training and they’d still give you s ....
In future, I won’t be on any boards or panels and if you are going to be a rugby coach you may as well be a player — it is fulltime. Coaching the Maniototo boys is OK because we get by on the drills I learned 10 years ago.
Farming is a lot of family knowhow and we don’t get a lot of farm advisory stuff. When the old man wants to sell off sheep, for example, he just drafts them off at the gate — doesn’t do figures. And when you shear the hoggets after you’ve drafted them off they’ll always be between 16 and 18 microns. It’s experience and that’s why I wanted to go back to the farm before the old man was too old because while you grow up on a farm, it doesn’t mean you are a farmer and because your old man is a doctor doesn’t mean you know a lot about medicine.
You get ideas and there’s nothing like getting with a few mates on a Sunday and having a few beers and driving around the farm discussing things. Frankie thinks we’re nuts sitting in a truck drinking beer.
There’s gold somewhere and one of Pete Gallagher’s mates wants to grow arnica because there’s a neighbour growing it. It’s like an alpine plant that thrives in crap soil and they can use the worst bit of our farm.
We’re not thinking about diversity. All my old man’s money goes back into the farm, and he doesn’t have a holiday house, but the good news is we don’t have to put too much back into it at the moment. We are not going to try to make millions each year by changing things. One thing you learn in farming is the wheel always turns and we’ll make the most of it when it’s at the top, but if you are chasing it then the wheel turns again.
The old man has done a great job and on the whole farm I think there’s probably only one gate that doesn’t swing and he’s got that measured up to get fixed. Machinery is expensive. The old man can’t start them [tractors], doesn’t like them and he’s never driven them, but he’ll talk to you about sheep and cattle all day and night. He loves his horses, breaking them in and riding them, and I’ve inherited a bit of that and have a big guy who is laid back and goes to some good places but he’s a bit ‘‘unco’’.
I’m going to wean myself off playing and into coaching because it’s tough trying to get out of bed sometimes on Sunday and once you start playing your competitive gene kicks in.
Tyrell loves playing footy and that’s great, while Esme wants to play hockey but she’s only 2.
Frankie and I met on a plane flying from Auckland to Wellington and she was sitting down, but if she had stood up I wouldn’t have talked to her because she’s a midget. I think she stalked me after that. I got her phone number and she showed up for Ma’a Nonu’s 100th game for the Canes, then a week later I went to South Africa and she was still a ‘‘livey’’ when I got home.
A Extract from Rugby The Afterlife by Wynne Gray, $39.99 RRP (Upstart Press)
The reality is I’m similar to an oldstyle player who loved farming and regarded time off as farm time
Hooker’s job . . . Andrew Hore throws in for Central Otago at a Topp Cup match in Balclutha in May 2015.
Winner . . . Andrew Hore (centre) celebrates winning the World Cup final at Eden Park in 2011.