From being taken down to the Reporoa Rugby Club after school by his dad as young boy to being named as the All Blacks captain, Sam Cane's title as a small-town hero is cemented.
Late on Tuesday, the 28-year-old was named captain of the All Blacks.
It was a decade after he made his provincial debut for the Bay of Plenty in 2010 at 18-years-old and his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs the following year.
Cane debuted for the All Blacks in 2012 and first captained the team three years later at the World Cup against Namibia, aged 23. He has played 68 tests, leading the team three times, and has been in the leadership group six years.
🗣️ "As a player you don't chase captaincy, it is something you grow into and evolve over years of learning and building your craft" - @SamCane7 talks about his selection as the new All Blacks captain.— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) May 5, 2020
FULL STORY 👉🏽 https://t.co/LRaEqXOBWg pic.twitter.com/fvJNRLoLfS
Reporoa College deputy principal Jane Goss, who has worked at the school about 12 years, said she remembered Cane as a "capable young man".
"He had an amazing sense of humour and he was often found on the rugby field with his ball ... Rugby was his thing."
Goss said Cane had strong leadership skills was well-liked while at school and by students now.
"We're lucky for our kids to have someone to look up to. All the kids are mad fans."
When she heard the news she thought it was well-deserved.
"He's a great leader on and off the field," she said.
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"Everybody will be very proud it's something for us to celebrate."
The school of just 230 students no longer has a first XV team so "to have an All Blacks captain we feel we're doing really well".
In 2015, Cane took the Webb Ellis Cup to his hometown, visiting his two former schools, Broadlands Primary and Reporoa College, with the Rugby World Cup trophy. He also visited Reporoa Primary School.
" I grew up around there and always had some pretty big dreams [to play for the ABs], and thought it would be pretty cool to go back and share the cup with them," he said at the time.
Principal Brendan Carroll said while Cane had been at the school before his time, the community was proud of him.
"I think it just shows small rural schools can produce very successful people. It shows the strength of small communities.
"Small communities can breed success."
As you drive into Reporoa there is a sign proudly stating "You're in Sam Cane country. Go the ABs!"
In 2010, for his final year of school, Cane moved from Reporoa College to Tauranga Boys' College, joining the first XV.
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said Cane's leadership was evident from the beginning, recalling a student who led from the front with an unwavering determination.
"He was very humble and very determined ... all his training and when he was on the field, he had a real sense of purpose.
"I remember watching him in some of our Super 8 games, he just wouldn't give up. As a Number 7, I can remember him chasing down a winger from Hamilton Boys' and he just pursued him for about 50 metres before he tackled him."
The focus carried over from field to classroom, Mangan said. Cane worked hard to juggle his work with rugby commitments and got along with fellow students and teachers.
Mangan said watching the journey of the old boy had been continually impressive.
UPDATE | #AllBlacks loose forward @SamCane7 is up and about after his successful operation in South Africa. Sam would like to thank everyone for all the support he has received from around the world, he is set to make a full recovery. 👊 pic.twitter.com/sdbeSMHVkI— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 9, 2018
Tauranga Boys' College is celebrating the naming of Cane as the fourth national sporting captain to come from the school, three of which are current.
The college also schooled current Black Caps captain Kane Williamson and Emirates Team NZ skipper Peter Burling, as well as Tanerau Latimer, the former-Māori All Blacks captain.
The college's physical education faculty leader Grant Marshall, who was part of the team to coach Cane and Latimer, said all four men had an ability to push themselves in ways others would not.
They all got on well with their peers, were compassionate and would channel their high standards to lead by example, he said.
They were not afraid to seek advice and had a burning desire to be better, which helped others in the team aspire to be better, Marshall said.
The college offers an Athlete Development Programme including 37 sports.
There is a component of leadership training in the programme and students would coach at primary schools and learn leadership principles, communication, organisation and motivation.
Bay of Plenty Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers said being named All Blacks captain was such a "high honour" for Cane and his family, and a special moment for Bay of Plenty rugby who Cane still contributed to now.
"His upbringing shaped him tremendously into a great young man and a good person, he said, and this gave him a good foundation to support other players and work with others in the role."
In a video statement posted by the All Blacks, Cane said it was an honour and privilege to be named captain.
"As a player, you don't chase captaincy, it is something you grow into and evolve over years of learning and building your craft."
He said his style as captain would be to not really change the way he did things.
"I'm just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue," he said.
Cane told Sky Sport's Breakdown show he had thought about the leadership style he wanted to impart on the All Blacks.
"I'd like to be very inclusive and build good relationships with all the guys in the squad.
"The younger guys are a massive part of any team, so it's important to get around them, so when the time comes for a stern word, you know it's coming from a caring place.
"I enjoy hearing other peoples' opinions and that helps form my own. I'll be very much encouraging of everyone to step up and be themselves and hear them out.
"You just have to look at the quality we've got in that team – there's plenty of guys with more experience than me and they're probably a lot smarter, too, so I'm not afraid to be wrong. As long as we get the right answers as a group, then it's a win."
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said there was massive respect for Cane amongst the players and management.
"Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a 'follow me' type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be," Foster said.
"He was perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future."