The Bay's Scott Curry is the new captain of the All Blacks Sevens, chosen to lead the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and other rugby 15s converts as the team makes its inaugural quest for Olympic gold. The 27-year-old speaks about the hard, sometimes lonely graft of training and injury recovery, while New Zealand's Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens reveals why he believes "Scurry" is an uber-talent who could have excelled equally at the top of the 15-a-side game.
Scott Curry is our All Blacks captain.
No, not the skipper of "the" All Blacks (you know, the ones who just won the Rugby World Cup), but the leader of the All Blacks Sevens.
The Sevens are a team who despite dominating year after year on the world stage, enjoy much less recognition than their revered 15-a-side cousins.
Curry became captain in August, the announcement he was replacing long-time skipper DJ Forbes coming at the same time as the naming of the All Blacks 15s World Cup line-up.
But unless you were an avid Sevens fan, the name Scott Curry was likely lost amid the likes of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams.
In an ironic twist, Curry is now set to lead several of the All Blacks 15s, including Williams and Liam Messam, as they switch to Sevens ahead of next year's Rio Olympics.
This week, All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that other 15s players are interested in joining his team and competition to gain a spot is intensifying.
"Who wouldn't want to go to the Olympics and be an Olympian?" Tietjens said.
Sevens is featuring in the Olympics for the first time, putting 27-year-old Curry in a historic position after his squad successfully qualified for the event in May.
Tietjens says the Papamoa player already leads from the front and will occupy a crucial mentoring role for players such as Williams trying Sevens for the first time.
"Players like Scott Curry are going to be important to those newer players coming in that want to be an Olympian and want to have an honest track to Olympic gold."
Tietjens has coached the All Blacks Sevens for more than two decades, achieving 14 World Series victories and two Rugby World Cup Sevens wins.
With a legendary ability to spot rugby talent, he has nurtured legions of players who have also gone on to great success in the 15s, including Jonah Lomu, Joe Rokocoko and Mils Muliaina.
Tietjens says it is a relief - and a surprise - that Curry has not gone the same way.
"If I was a 15-a-side coach coaching one of the top sides, I know exactly the position that he would be. He would excel as an outstanding loose forward in the game, a 6 or 7 or an 8. He could play in either three of the positions and excel."
So did Tietjens ever encourage him in that regard?
"No, because I was coaching the Sevens team," he says with a laugh. "I lose enough players as it is to Super Rugby and all that, let alone losing one of my best players."
, or Scurry as he is nicknamed, is not someone who gets recognised on the streets.
He says it is rare to get a compliment on his playing apart from those who know him or the occasional fan who spots him immediately after a game in New Zealand.
In many ways, Scurry is an apt nickname for an athlete who appears to fly slightly under the radar, despite the reality of a life travelling the world for his sport.
Next month, Curry boards a plane for Dubai for the beginning of the next Sevens World Series and by mid next year, he will have played in 10 cities, including Las Vegas, Vancouver, Paris and London.
It is a drill he has followed for several years but on the suburban street where he owns a house with his girlfriend, Jess Voon, it would be hardly surprising if his neighbours were unaware they were living next door to an All Blacks captain.
Curry is taciturn and modest, describing himself as only "reasonably good" at his game and someone who has taken a long time to get to form.
That part is true - he had a shocking run of injuries that left him unable to perform for a year and a half and meant he missed the 2013 World Cup Sevens in Russia.
He has now had two good years - in Tietjens' words, his last season was "outstanding" - but despite this, Curry says he was caught off-guard when the coach offered him the captaincy.
"I didn't see it coming at all," Curry says.
He says not much has changed in the wake of the announcement and he still shares responsibility for team decisions with a core group of senior players, but is nonetheless honoured by the title.
"You never really think you're going to get to captain your country in your chosen sport, so it's pretty cool."
Tietjens says Curry was an obvious choice when DJ Forbes asked to step down to focus on the Olympics amid his own injury strife.
Curry possesses all-important humility and stands out for his athleticism and drive, says Tietjens.
"Our game is all about conditioning and pushing yourself mentally and physically and Scurry's one of those players who is mentally very, very tough ... He's a player that goes out and gives it that 120 per cent every time he goes out and plays. He's someone that doesn't need motivation. He's always self-motivated."
TIETJENS first spotted Curry in the Manawatu under 20s and was impressed by his speed.
Curry was doing a Bachelor of Science at Massey University and Tietjens encouraged him to play Sevens.
Curry thought it unwise to ignore the respected coach and embarked on a series of invitational world tours before making the All Blacks Sevens at the end of his studies in 2010.
On the initial tours, he played in locations including Dubai, Thailand and Kenya, "places you'd never expect to go playing rugby," and says the experience was eye-opening.
"When you first make it, you're just stoked to be there and doing a bit of travel."
In rugby, he found Sevens suited him better than the traditional game - "I was always struggling to find a position to really nail down in 15s" - and he still loves the freedom of the Sevens field.
"There's so much more space. You get a lot more of an opportunity to express yourself ... You also have to be a bit of an all-rounder. You have to be good in the air, you have to be a good defender and a good attacker. If you're a forward, you have to be a prop and a lock at the same time."
Does he feel a bit cheated at Sevens' lack of profile compared to 15s?
"I wouldn't say cheated by it, but yeah, I can see how you'd say that. We are in a way the poor cousin I guess, but now that it's in the Olympics, I think that'll change."
Curry says Sevens is becoming more of a pathway in itself as opposed to a second choice for players who don't make the 15s. "That's the sort of culture we're trying to create anyway, that it's its own game, and it's definitely starting to segregate from the 15-a-side game."
Although the money doesn't compare with the mainstream All Blacks, he says it is more of an incentive than in the past, and opportunities are growing as rugby's popularity extends into areas such as the Middle East.
"Rugby's one of the fastest growing sports over there and Sevens is good because it has that outreach. They can see players from Portugal and Kenya, Spain, Russia, those sort of countries that would never get a look in at a Rugby World Cup or in a 15-a-side team, but they can see those guys competing with the likes of New Zealand and South Africa. That gives those countries an awesome opportunity to grow the game."
CURRY IS THE OLDEST of four brothers and sport played a big part in his childhood in Reporoa.
As well as rugby, he and his siblings played cricket, hockey, water polo, basketball, tennis, badminton and more.
"We just enjoyed getting out and playing any sport together and having our mates round, and whatever it was, we got stuck in."
He credits his parents with great support on the sidelines and enjoyed the environment at Reporoa College, which also produced All Black Sam Cane.
Now, Curry's biggest buzz is playing in front of a home crowd.
"It's really the only time our family gets to be there and be involved in the tournament."
He loves playing in Hong Kong for its enthusiastic crowds, but says support for New Zealand is generally average overseas.
"No one likes to see us win really because usually we're top of the table."
Sevens also lacks the travelling fan base of the All Blacks 15s, simply because of the number of countries in which the tournament is held each season.
"You'd have to be a pretty committed fan and a pretty well off fan to be able to chase us around the globe," says Curry.
, walks on the beach, stand-up paddle boarding and old-school music give Curry a respite from rugby ("I've got a good eighties sing-a-long playlist on Spotify if you want to follow it"), while his dog Luca is also a salve.
"[She's a] good training partner. It's good to have a bit of company now and then."
The job can be lonely when the team is not together, Curry says, but he remains dedicated to a pre-season routine of morning runs and afternoon gym sessions. "It's my job so I've gotta be doing it right. It's gotta be my priority."
Diet is another priority, with Tietjens notorious for his nutrition edict: "Nothing fried, no cheese and no red meat two days out from a tournament."
"You can always sneak cheese in under your baked beans though," Curry says in a joking whisper.
At 192cm, he tries to maintain 100kg on his frame, and also jokes about getting recovery right.
"I like my sleep, but it's good because they say sleep's the best recovery tool. I just call it my recovery, 'doing recovery,' so every now and then in the afternoon, I have a little recovery nap on the couch."
Curry has fought back from injuries including a shoulder reconstruction, broken wrist, torn ankle ligament, stress fracture in his leg, and two breaks in his hand, the final one forcing him out of the 2013 World Cup Sevens two days before the team was due to fly to Russia.
He says injuries are the nature of the beast but he refuses to fear them, adopting All Blacks 15s coach Steve Hansen's World Cup adage that "worry is a wasted emotion".
Curry is signed to the end of next year with the Sevens and although the Olympics is a definite goal, he says it is hard with rugby to look too far into the future.
"You're one injury away from being finished," he says.
"I just take every tournament as it comes and every chance I get to play as pretty lucky."