“If you’re Coastal, you’re not a little bit Coastal; you’re Coastal hardcore and you’ll always sort of be that way.”
For world rugby’s family of the moment, the Barretts, it’s a line that seems a world away from the stadiums Beauden has wowed across the globe, and siblings Jordie and Scott seemed destined to grace. But coastal Taranaki is Barrett Country, and the Coastal Rugby Club, formed out of Okato, Opunake and Rahotu in 1995, is just as important to the Barrett clan as the Hurricanes, Crusaders and All Blacks colours the supremely talented brothers have worn in recent times.
Having thundered home to see off the Stormers last weekend, Hurricanes stars Beauden and Jordie later shared a picture on Twitter of themselves holding a Coastal Rugby banner. To the casual rugby fan, it may have come across as a token gesture for a few supporters who’d made the four-hour trip south. But dig a little deeper, and the value the Barretts place on the club, and in turn the esteem in which the family is held in the region, is squeezed out like the milk from the dairy cows on which the community has long relied and for why Coastal Rugby Club had to be formed.
Tough win tonight. Great to see all the people wearing their club Jersey’s with pride, especially the Coastal ones all the way from Taranaki pic.twitter.com/E3Bj4WMBom
— Beauden Barrett (@beaudenbarrett) May 5, 2017
“It had a lot to deal with the small dairies scenario, they were centralising,” Coastal chairman Brent Davies told ESPN of his club’s birth.
“With the population going down, there wasn’t the player base there to have three competitive teams. So we just combined to make sure we had one competitive team and that everyone could have a grade to play in … it had to be done and it has worked out pretty well.”
The Barrett name was there from day one.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has only a 55 percent Test success rate so he can’t beat the drum too loudly because his players likely will let him down when least expected, Greg Growden writes.
World Rugby has voted to increase the required residency period to be eligible for international rugby from three to five years, but the change won’t come into effect until the end of 2020.
“I played rugby with ‘Smiley’ all the way through, or played against him,” Davies told ESPN of the boys’ father, Kevin. “He was Opunake, I was Okato, and then we were both in the original Coastal team together. So Smiley was obviously a foundation member of the Coastal team, and he was actually one of the players who really was instrumental in driving the amalgamation; there was probably half a dozen of us. So he was quite instrumental in the amalgamation as well.
“[The amalgamation] was actually a lot smoother than it could have been. Yes, there was the old school that couldn’t quite get their head around it because they weren’t moving with the times. But because it was driven predominantly by the players, it was what we wanted at the time and we knew that if we wanted to play competitive rugby it had to happen; it did go through all right. The only grizzles were the old guys sitting behind their jug of p— in the pub, having a bit of a complain about the old days, really. So it was really smooth and, for the [Taranaki] coast — from Opunake to Okato, you’re talking 30km — it just bought the whole coast together.”
If the social media post after last week’s win over the Stormers isn’t enough to convince you of the Barrett’s affinity for Coastal Rugby, then the picture on the club’s website of Beauden “holding court” in the clubhouse on his 21st should help to erase any remaining doubts. Or what about the words he uttered upon re-signing with New Zealand Rugby in 2016: “I’m looking forward to keep playing rugby for the All Blacks, for the Hurricanes and for Taranaki.”
“Beaudy being Beaudy, and I know him pretty well, he would have just about slipped in Coastal if he could have,” Davies said. “The irony of that is that he probably won’t play a single game for Taranaki this year because of where and what he is.
“But I know for a fact, and this is a measure of those kids, Jordie got released [from the Hurricanes] the other week, whether they had a bye or just a couple of days off, he was straight at training with the boys at Rahuto on a pretty average Thursday night, kicking a ball around with the young kids. He was practising his kicks but they were running it back to him and loving it. And I sort of said to him ‘are you available on Saturday?’. And he basically said there’s nothing more I’d love than to pull on the Coastal jersey; but you just can’t.
A Coastal player scores in the corner Coastal Rugby Club
“We won’t see them. We won’t see him and we won’t see Beaudy and we won’t see Scott; it’s just the nature of professional rugby. But the point I’m trying to make is that, if they could, in a bloody heartbeat they’d have that Coastal jersey on. I guarantee you.”
As it stands, of the three brothers who might yet line up against the British & Irish Lions over the next couple of months, only Beauden (11 games) has played for the Coastal club. But brother Blake will captain the club in his 46th game this week while Kane, the oldest of the Barrett boys who had a few games with the Blues, has 41 Coastal starts to his name.
News, exclusive opinion, video to your inbox
Wearing the same jersey his father first pulled on as foundation member more than 20 years ago, Blake will join a bunch of blokes playing just for the love the game. Talking to Davies, who has long hung up the boots, it’s clear the affection runs deep.
“So my last Saturday, I left home at half-past eight in the morning, went and watched my 13-year-old son play schoolboy rugby, shot down to Hawera to watch the [Coastal] Under 20s and the development team at the same time because they were sort of playing at the same time, then watched the seniors play after that,” he told ESPN.
“And left pretty much straight after, went to town to watch the curtain-raiser for the main game which was Francis Douglas [College] versus [New Plymouth] Boys’ High, which was a huge game, and then watched the Chiefs. So that was five games of rugby that Saturday … luckily the missus is into it as well, she loves it. From half-past eight in the morning to about 10 [at night], that’s my normal Saturday.”
While Jordie and Beauden were cross-kicking and flick-passing their way to victory over the Stormers in Wellington, the Chiefs were far closer to Coastal Rugby Club, in New Plymouth, beating up on the Reds.
Taranaki’s decision to join the Chiefs’ catchment, after long being a part of Hurricanes country, was a welcomed move, though, as the Wellington-based franchise, according to Davies anyway, had little interest in being anything but just that.
A Coastal player runs over for a five-pointer Coastal Rugby Club
“Basically, the Hurricanes were stiffing us,” he told ESPN.
“Year after year — well we didn’t get a game for years in Taranaki, you know. And they even had the audacity to call themselves the Wellington Hurricanes; they just don’t give a —- about anything else outside of Wellington, and that’s pretty much a quote from the General Manager at the time. He didn’t give a s— about NPC rugby; it was all about Super Rugby, all about the Hurricanes and all about it being based in Wellington, and they stiffed us over for that long.
“And to be honest, the Chiefs delivered on all their promises. They brought at least one game every year [to Taranaki]. And when the Chiefs are in town, they’re really noticeable with their PR around getting the players in the schools, getting their players out there in the public, and they do that really, really well. They sort of sell themselves on the family side of things more than what the Hurricanes did; they do a better job basically.”
While the Chiefs may be winning over the younger generation across Taranaki, Davies says, despite what went down with the Hurricanes, the defending Super Rugby champions still have plenty of support in the region. And not just because of the Barrett clan, either; Hurricanes hooker Ricky Riccitelli and the recently-retired James Broadhurst also hail from the region. And certainly in Coastal Taranaki, it will be some time before the yellow and black of the Canes gets a dash of red and is declared Chiefs’ country.
Scott Barrett may garner a little support, even this week when he lines up against his brothers, in the Crusaders’ red; but the Hurricanes are an easy sell given the rugby Beauden and Jordie have been playing has fans across the globe picking their jaws up off the floor. Not that, according to Davies, that’s how anyone from the family would see it.
“I don’t know whether you’ve managed to talk to Smiley and Robyn, but that whole family, that’s the word that you use; they’re just humble, down-to-earth people the whole lot of them. There’s no room for ego in that family. It’s a funny thing, like; there’s no room for ego in a big family, and no room for ego in a small community; and they had both. The girls as well, they are the same; the whole lot of them humble, down-to-earth people.”
As Davies says, and the images of the boys representing the club colours can attest, the Barrett clan is indeed “Coastal hardcore” and the club, in turn, feels very much a part of what is currently rugby’s most remarkable family story.
So did the world’s best player run amok on his 21st birthday, just as he does the rugby field?
“From what I heard, it was a very good night … as you would expect.”
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY