16 Mar 2019

It's time to leave Dan Carter alone - Bidwell

8:57 am on 16 March 2019

Opinion - They used to say you're a long time retired.

Dan Carter playing for the Kobelco Steelers in Japan

Dan Carter playing for the Kobelco Steelers in Japan. Photo: Photosport

Not any more. No, it seems those who've pulled the pin on their careers never actually leave us.

It would be an exaggeration to say New Zealand sport was rocked this week, but Daniel Carter's revelation that he "doesn't have a lot of rugby in me'' was still reported as if it were news.

Never mind that the 37-year-old retired after winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Sure, he's played on in France and now Japan, but only in semi-retirement. To all intents and purposes, Carter's career finished years ago.

That didn't stop self-styled rugby sage Stephen Jones declaring last May, for instance, that Carter was in decline.

Yes, hold the phone, apparently the 2018 incarnation of Carter wasn't a patch on the one who used to play behind dominant All Blacks and Crusaders packs.

Well, you don't say.

Carter now has a neck issue that requires surgery and you wish him all the best with that. After all, so much of his life is still ahead of him.

Whether he plays rugby again, though, is neither here nor there.

He's done his bit for the game - and then some - and will rightly be remembered as one of the finest All Blacks we've seen and an excellent ambassador for New Zealand.

So, please, spare us the newsflashes that his playing career is in jeopardy.

Carter's hardly alone, though. His former team-mate Richie McCaw is almost as relevant today as he was back in 2015 too.

Richie's out for a run, Richie rode a bike, Richie agrees that Kieran Read is a good bloke and good player, Richie thinks New Zealand can retain the world cup. Where would we be without this information?

Cricketer Brendon McCullum has copped a bit of the Carter treatment as well.

A Twenty20 gun for hire, since retiring from actual cricket in 2016, McCullum was never universally admired.

How he got out, where he wanted to bat, if he'd keep wicket and how he came by the Black Caps' captaincy really seemed to irk some people.

Brisbane Heat batsman and former Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum.

Brendon McCullum retired from international cricket following the 2015 World Cup, but has carried on playing in Twenty20 competitions around the world. Photo: Photosport

So, as the T20 deals dried up, along with the runs, we were treated to mirthful reports of his apparent demise.

Forgetting of course that - like Carter's - McCullum's career had ended years before.

More recently came predictions that Ma'a Nonu was a candidate to play at this year's Rugby World Cup.

Never mind that he's 36 and been on the same superannuation scheme as Carter, Nonu was going to return from his three years in France and take Super Rugby by storm.

The fact he hasn't made an immediate impact with the Blues doesn't diminish Nonu in any way.

He played more than 100 tests for New Zealand, winning two world cups, and will always be greatly admired for that. But, at the risk of being a broken record, his real rugby career finished in 2015 as well.

And, let's face it, the guy who's wearing the Hurricanes No.12 jersey that once belonged to Nonu - Ngani Laumape - seems to be filling it pretty well.

Why not let Laumape, and those of his generation, enjoy their moment rather than clamour for the return of old favourites?

Again - and this is the important bit - Carter is about to undergo neck surgery. That's a delicate procedure and no doubt he and his family are slightly anxious about the outcome.

Without wanting to sound too dramatic, sometimes a good rugby career is one a player can walk away from.

Carter's a young man, with a young family and you want him to be able to enjoy retirement.

He's certainly earned it.

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