Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Carter shows age is no boundary

Dan Carter, at 34, is a central figure in France's Racing Metro and is poised to win Europe's biggest club league. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Carter, at 34, is a central figure in France's Racing Metro and is poised to win Europe's biggest club league. Photo / Getty Images

Daniel Carter will attempt this weekend to join a select group who have won Super Rugby, World Cup and Heineken Cup winners' medals.

Former All Black Brad Thorn and former Springboks Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw are the three men who have already done so.

Carter will be the first back to claim the triple should his Racing Metro side defeat Saracens in the final of the European Champions Cup (formerly known as the Heineken Cup).

Another major title for Carter would almost be too much to comprehend given that this time last year he was mostly a bit part figure at second-five for an under-performing Crusaders team.

But since he finished his Super Rugby career in July last year, Carter has won a World Cup, been named World Player of the Year and been a central figure in Racing Metro's unexpected lunge to the final of Europe's biggest club tournament.

Such a phenomenal 10 months raises a number of things to ponder, not the least of which is whether it's time to reconsider the potential longevity of the typical playing career.

It wasn't that long ago that it would have been close to unthinkable that a 34-year-old could achieve so much and be so influential.

The likes of Thorn, Botha and Rossouw, who managed to keep playing top end club football after they had retired from test football, were solid grafters rather than star men. They were also tight forwards - where strength and stamina are more important, and qualities that typically improve with age.

Carter, not in the same way he did 10 years ago, still poses a threat when he runs. He's still a handful for defences because he poses multiple problems with his passing, running, kicking and decision-making.

He's as influential at 34 as he was at 24 and this is new territory for rugby - having athletes remain in such prime form into their 30s. Carter has another two years on his Paris contract and he could be terrorising defences when he's 36.

When Carter was first picked as an All Black in 2003, only three men in that squad - Tana Umaga, Mark Hammett and Dave Hewett - were older than 30, and even then it wasn't by much.

It was hard for older players to get a fair crack at selection and that often led to good New Zealand players heading offshore in their mid-to-late-20s, believing they only had one last big contract in them.

But that has all changed -- as demonstrated in the make-up of the Racing Metro squad. Fellow veteran All Blacks Ross Filipo, Chris Masoe, Casey Laulala and Joe Rokocoko are with the Paris club.

Filipo is 37 and Masoe will turn the same age next week. Laulala is 34 and Rokocoko will soon be, too.

Thirty is no longer old. Players can stay in New Zealand until their mid-30s and, like Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and many others, head offshore and still earn big money and have huge influence.

Dan Carter's trophy cabinet
2003 Tri Nations
2004 NPC
2005 British Lions Tour
2005 Super 12
2005 Tri Nations
2005 World Player of the Year
2006 Super 14
2006 Tri Nations
2007 Tri Nations
2008 Super 14
2008 Tri Nations
2010 Tri Nations
2012 Rugby Championship
2012 World Player of the Year
2013 Rugby Championship
2015 Rugby World Cup
2015 World Player of the Year

- NZ Herald

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