From milking cows to world stage
Former All Black Eric Rush has few peers when it comes to telling a good yarn, and he had some rippers for Extension 350 project audiences in Paihia and Whanga¯rei earlier this month.
From humble beginnings, hand-milking eight cows as a boy in Ka¯eo, to meeting the Queen, Lady Diana and Nelson Mandela, he captivated his audiences with the message that success breeds success.
He was the keynote speaker at both events, aimed at recognising the hard work of the target farmers, mentor farmer, consultants and partners of the Extension 350 farmer-to-farmer learning project in Northland.
Mr Rush, who also holds a law degree, recalled meeting Nelson Mandela, who told him that decades before he had been inspired by the All Blacks.
“Mandela told us that the Springboks were a symbol of apartheid, so when the All Blacks scored, the whole Robben Island prison rose to its feet,” he said.
Meanwhile, having tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and meeting Lady Diana, had been “a million miles” from where he was brought up.
Ka¯eo had been a typical small New Zealand town, with little money, few jobs and none of the “material stuff.” He and his four brothers, who had hand-milked their eight cows, had not had iPhones but learned “heaps” about life.
“If I had my time as a kid again, I wouldn’t change anything,” he said.
“We had no running water and just one bath a week. We only got electricity when I was 11 or 12. There are a lot of things I take for granted now — having a fridge, turning the TV on, or a flushing toilet.
“We played rugby so we could go to the shops at the weekend. We lived 20km out of town, and if you didn’t play rugby you stayed home and did jobs with your father. I had a tough dad — he pushed us hard, but only wanted us to do our best.
“I once told him about my scoring four tries against Hawke’s Bay. Dad told me off for being greedy.
“We would fundraise in Ka¯eo for the fivehour bus trip to Whanga¯rei to watch the games and eat KFC. Fast food in Ka¯eo was hitting a sheep at 100km.
“Those trips — that was where my dreams started.”
He had quickly realised that what set the winners apart was the amount of practice they did.
“Sometimes you learn more too when you’re going through the tough stuff,” he said. “Talent only gets you so far. To get the rest of the way you need hard work.
“Success breeds success. If you want to be a successful person, hang around with successful people. That’s what E350 is all about.”
Former All Black Eric Rush inspiring Extension 350 farmers with his rags to riches story.