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October 6, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Guest Star

When All Black Dan Carter stepped out to a hero’s welcome at Perpignan two weeks ago, he might have felt a little like the guest star in a television sitcom.

European rugby – differing perhaps only in terms of watchability and quality – is curiously similar to an American TV network. Instead of hauling Cher’s plastic-fantastic carcass into makeup and wardrobe, they wheel in people like – oh, I don’t know – Daniel Carter during their equivalent of sweeps: the Heineken Cup.

Typically, American television doles out ‘Generic Buddy Sitcom #422, Season 4, Episode 13: Hank Gets a New Room Mate (guest starring Jack Black)’ during the lucrative sweeps season. Networks pounce on whatever advertising-suckin’ venture they can pin their stubby little mitts to, and this often involves the coy and casual celebrity guest appearance. The mad men from Saatchi then simultaneously smile at the ratings, throw xamounts of dollars television’s way, and then unapologetically nail each and every woman within a 10km radius in raucous celebration.

Instead of bolstering ratings and giving people on something to cry about, these guest appearances are strategic moves designed for the executive purpose of cleverly cashing in on their commodified club commitments. Throw in a casual need to produce trail-blazing rugby that wins games, and voila! Emmy nominee, thy name is Perpignan.

But remember, folks, he’s only guest starring.

Despite how much Perpignan would love to have the undisputed best first-five-eighth in world rugby join their cast permanently, Carter’s interminable desire to bruise the Wallabies’ defensive skin is still strong. It’s one he is reluctant to abandon – still. After he’s made his millions flirting with the advantage line and firing conversions from wherever and whenever, ‘Ol Danny Boy will come home where the pipes of All Black success will be calling.

But let us not neglect the fact that Carter is a man of diverse and interesting tastes. In his inaugural press conference at his new French home, he made no bones about his desire to set aside the seeming banality of New Zealand’s rugby schedule in favour of the flavoursome Top 14 cuisine in France. In essence, this means that the only time New Zealand rugby fans will see their golden-footed star will be when he slides back into black around June 2009. This is perfectly acceptable… provided nothing untoward happens to him.

One can only hope the transition from French superstar to All Black is silky-smooth with not a single hint of an injury or some ravenous need to spend more time in the land of “le” and “la”. The last thing we want is the kid from up the street (and two towns over) breaking our bestest toy, or stealing him and saying, “But you never had a Daniel Carter remember?” applying the “Stealer Keeps Weener Kid’s Toys” rule evident in all playground legal discourse throughout the Western world.

There is also an unfair arrogance purported by rugby scribes below the equator that dresses down the quality of rugby played up north. Many believe that because the dimming candles of rugby-glory past eventually go out in scenic Northampton, the quality of rugby played there is, therefore, muted and dim. Rest quite assured that Daniel Carter’s six months in France will not be spent sauntering about in tasteful Perpignan orange doing sweet-f-all. He will be tackling, running, passing, kicking, dipping, diving, crushing, screaming as much – if not more – up north than down here.

It’s like rugby has invited its #1 salesman into its office, lauded his turnover for the last financial quarter, then took his Christmas vacation off him and sent him packing to the office in France. The salesman’s response, of course, is pure, unmitigated joy. Carter’s commitment to rugby, it must be noted, is exceptional.

But I cannot stress this enough: he will come home, he will feature in black again, and by the grace of the rugby gods he will be better than he was before he left. The Perpignan Show appreciates us lending them our best to play guest. He will, after all, sweep them off their feet.


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Kia ora, biography box, kia ora.

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