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

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE -

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

PHOTO: PE­TER MCIN­TOSH

Hooker’s job . . . An­drew Hore throws in for Cen­tral Otago at a Topp Cup match in Bal­clutha in May 2015.

PHOTO: CRAIG BAX­TER

Win­ner . . . An­drew Hore (cen­tre) cel­e­brates win­ning the World Cup fi­nal at Eden Park in 2011.

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