Beauden Barrett: BEYOND THE FIELD
Beauden Barrett has flashed like a comet across the rugby sky – a remarkable player from a remarkable family.
The Barretts of Taranaki are first a family, a farming family, but also a rugby family – and it may just be that rugby runs even more strongly through their veins than farming!
To start with, Beauden John Barrett is one, of Kevin and Robyn Barrett's eight children, the second oldest. Eight? That's right.
The family have a dairy farm in Pungarehu, a small town on the Taranaki coast up the Surf Highway from New Plymouth, near Hawera where Conrad Smith was born.
The Barretts own two farms as father Kevin, known as Smiley, bought a second farm from Graham Mourie, famous as an All Black captain.
Smiley played 167 times for Taranaki as a loose forward first then, as he grew slower and heavier, as a lock.
He was in the famous 1996 team that beat Auckland 42-39 to win the sacred New Zealand Log o' Wood, the Ranfurly Shield, once the holy grail of New Zealand rugby, which, so they say, Smiley hung up in his cowshed.
Smiley played several times for the Hurricanes in 1997 and 1998, the early days of professional rugby, for in those days Taranaki were part of the Hurricanes catchment area, before they moved to support Waikato's Chiefs.
When Smiley ended his Taranaki/Hurricanes days in 1999 at the age of 33 he, as anybody called Kevin would want to do, took the family to Ireland where he experienced Ireland and managed a dairy farm up in Athlone and played for the Buccaneers, the local club.
Three of his sons were old enough to play for the Under-10 team of the Meath club St Brigid's in Ballinacree at Gaelic football, at which, an Irish friend remembers, Beauden excelled.
But back to the Famous Eight.
Five are boys – Kane, Beauden, Scott, then three sisters Zara, Ella and Jenna and then Blake and Jordy.
All of the boys played rugby, all of them won age-group colours for Taranaki.
Oh, and their cousin from the neighbouring farm Neesha Barrett captained Taranaki's women's team. At primary school, she played lock next to her cousin Kane.
In 2001 Smiley and his family came back to New Zealand.
For the boys serious rugby started at the Francis Douglas Memorial School in New Plymouth, founded by the De La Salle Brothers, a keen rugby school which takes its name from a Catholic priest who was just 33 when he was tortured and murdered/martyred by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1943 for refusing to speak about what he had heard in the confessional.
It's a school of about 760 boys, about 130 of whom are boarders. Big school, all boys, boarders, in New Zealand – a sure recipe for enthusiasm for rugby.
Look at the school's list of famous Old Boys and you will find a politician, two writers and seven rugby players, two of them All Blacks – Conrad Smith and Beauden Barrett.
All five Barrett boys went there and played for the first XV, while the three girls went to Sacred Heart Convent in New Plymouth where the youngest, Jenna, became the head girl, as had Conrad Smith's sister before her.
Kane, the oldest at 26, was a flank who played for Taranaki and then for the Blues in Super Rugby.
He was playing for Taranaki at the age of 20 when Beaudie, as the family call him, made his debut for Taranaki at the age of 19, for Kane was born in April 1990, Beauden in May 1991. Kane captained New Zealand Schools and was close to making the New Zealand Under-20 side.
Scott Barrett, who was born in 1993 and went off to the University of Canterbury, is making a name for himself as a lock for the Crusaders.
Of the six Barrett rugby players, only two are backs, Beauden and the vastly promising Jordie.
Blake was small but aggressive No.8 at school. The youngest Jordie, born in 1997 and now at Lincoln University, was in the New Zealand Under-20 side at this year's Junior World Championship in Manchester. He plays first or, perhaps better, second five-eighth – flyhalf and inside centre in normal English. A great rugby future is predicted for him.
At the moment Beauden is the star, recently described by a former All Black as "the best rugby player in the world".
It is not an unusual statement as he follows in the footsteps of Daniel Carter, who took it over from Richie McCaw.
New Zealanders have a penchant for proclaiming someone or something the best/biggest/smallest/highest/wettest/oldest/youngest thing in the world.
But in this case, they are probably right.
In 2010 he made his debut for Taranaki, played Sevens for New Zealand and played for the New Zealand Under-20 when they won the Junior World Championship. In 2011 he moved to Massey University in Wellington and made his debut for the Hurricanes for whom he has now played 82 times and scored 938 points.
On 23 June 2012, at the age of 21, he made his All Black debut and it was against ancestral Ireland.
In today's rapid accumulation when international rugby sides are virtually clubs, he has already played 42 tests, despite the likes of Carter, Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga around. In those Tests, he has scored 225 points from 14 tries, 46 conversions and 21 penalties.
He really is a special player – calm, obviously enjoying the game, skilful, electrically fast and instinctively making the right choices.
Skills, speed, balance and instinct combine to enable him to do the right thing excellently well. It is no coincidence that Hurricane and New Zealand wings and fullbacks are "the best in the world". They have a flyhalf (and scrumhalves) who give them the opportunities and space that makes for tries.
His skills enable him to catch, pass, run and tackle and when he want to he kicks with precision, on defence and on attack, whether to gain ground, put pressure on opponents or sending a long foot pass across the field. And when he breaks, he can bust a game wide open with his breathtaking speed – like nobody else in the world.
And you sigh and believe that he is the best rugby player in the world.
But it's even better. He does it all with some much honesty, good manners and cheerfulness that he makes one so proud that he plays rugby football.
He really is an admirable hero and role model to the young and all. You must love someone whose greatest show of delight is in his eyes, not in wild gestures.
By Paul Dobson