From milk­ing cows to world stage

The Northland Age - - Local News -

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.”

PICTURE / SUPPLIED

For­mer All Black Eric Rush inspiring Ex­ten­sion 350 farm­ers with his rags to riches story.

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