Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Book Review: Richie McCaw - The Open Side


Richie McCaw: The Open Side, with Greg McGee
Hachette New Zealand Ltd $49.99

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

The dust jacket of this book sets the tone. There is no airbrushing on Richie McCaw; instead, there is an open, engaged look as his strong hairline frames his stubbled face.

It sets the tone for this insight into what makes the All Black captain tick, how he has dealt with all the issues which have arisen during his time with the team.

If you are looking for any great revelations or scuttlebutt, you'll need to look elsewhere.

But the more you read the more you get to grips with the triggers which have fired McCaw, the way he is driven and the principles that guide him.

There are also his views on some tasty issues such as the Graham Henry/Robbie Deans coaching choice after the 2007 World Cup.

McCaw was right in the middle, coached by both men to consistent success but able to disengage enough to separate, without any rancour or emotion, their credentials.

He felt Deans' reluctance to share the coaching authority and delegate was a telling factor in the eventual decision.

We get another take on the fallout from Cardiff 2007 when NZRU chief executive Steve Tew offers McCaw a chance to "doctor" for public consumption, part of the official report which questioned his captaincy.

In a variety of situations, McCaw takes us on the journey he makes as openside flanker and captain in the buildup to a test.

He prepares by making notations in an exercise book, asking himself questions and checking his production against his wishes.

It is these areas that fascinate and give some background and insight into why he is such a magnificent rugby player and leader.

He is a machine with intelligence, a rugby robot with an inquiring mind.

Those titanium threads which define McCaw and drive him on, keep working throughout the words delivered in such a natural fashion by author Greg McGee.

We discover rare glitches in McCaw's confidence, such as the 2009 season when he wonders for the first time in his career whether the All Blacks are good enough.

His other anxiety came last season when his foot played up. As he struck more trouble he had flashbacks to the 1987 World Cup with injured skipper Andy Dalton in the background to David Kirk.

That is the human side to McCaw as we discover how strong his mind is in overcoming his adversity to help capture the world rugby crown.

- NZ Herald

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