Former All Black skipper Richie McCaw is the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year. The two-time Rugby World Cup winner talks about leadership, the people who inspire him, and his passion for enabling more Kiwi kids to participate in sport.
Richie McCaw has had a whirlwind few months. After leading the All Blacks to become the first team to win back-to-back Rugby World Cups, Richie announced he was ending his 14-year sporting career and went into training for the GODZone adventure race.
The race will raise money for Cure Kids, which funds medical research into potential cures for serious health conditions that affect children.
Working to help children and young people to achieve their potential has long been a priority for Richie, which is one of the reasons he has been selected as a finalist in the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Award.
Together with fellow former All Blacks Ali Williams and Dan Carter, Richie set up the iSport Foundation to seek grants and crowdfunding to enable talented young Kiwi athletes to achieve their goals. iSport has now teamed up with Paralympics New Zealand to support young disabled sportspeople in advance of the Paralympic Games in Rio in September.
“Ali and Dan and myself got to the point where we’d been playing for a wee while and wanted to set up a foundation that would be a legacy for us. Sport had given us a lot and we wanted to give something back,” says Richie.
During his playing career, Richie was notable for always being willing to take the time to greet young rugby supporters. While Richie believes the best role models for kids are their parents, he says it’s a privilege to be able to greet fans and show them the All Blacks are “normal people who are no different to them”.
While Richie is the most capped test rugby player in history and was named World Rugby Player of the Year three times, it was his leadership qualities that made him a legend. He always led from the front, and maintains that the best way to inspire a team is through actions rather than words.
He also believes one of the biggest challenges for leaders is convincing a group of people to believe in the same vision. “If you believe in something bigger than yourself, you can handle any differences of opinion. Whether you’re the superstar or the new guy on the block, you’ll all be working towards the same goal.”
Richie sees parallels between the cultural diversity of the All Blacks and New Zealand’s increasingly multicultural society.
“We’re a huge melting pot of cultures and we have to understand people’s differences and find a way to work together,” he says.
“We got that right in the All Blacks - we really embraced it. Rather than not talking about it, we acknowledged that we’d all been brought up differently and asked how we could work together to get the best out of everyone. You have to be open to diversity, as a team and as a country.”
Richie is inspired by New Zealanders who succeed on the world stage, such as rowers Mahé Drysdale and Lisa Carrington, and by Kiwis with big jobs overseas.
“I get inspired when I hear about people who worked hard and saw opportunities and made what they did count. I love the way Kiwis always find a way to make an impact,” he says.
“Anything is possible for people who come from a country like ours. If anyone says something is too hard to do, that just means it hasn’t been done yet.”