Dan Carter announced his retirement from professional rugby at age 38. The star of the All Blacks He confirmed the news through his social networks: “I cannot thank everyone who has participated in my trip enough, especially you, the fans. Rugby will always be part of my life. Thank you,” he said.
But hours later the historic player of the New Zealand national team and the world of rugby wrote an emotional farewell letter to the sport, in a column with The Players Tribune.
The full letter:
Before being anything, he was a fan of rugby. I guess it really started when I was five years old and New Zealand co-hosted the first Rugby World Cup. New Zealand ended up winning the entire tournament, and I still remember the moment when David Kirk, the team captain, raised the trophy in the air. It cemented a thought in my mind. Actually, it was not so much a thought as a dream.
I wanted it to be me one day. I wanted to be an All Black. I wanted to represent my country, even if it was only for one game. I was very young, but at the time I had no doubts about what I wanted in my life. And he knew he would be willing to do whatever it took, make whatever sacrifices it took, to get it.
It seemed like an impossible dream at the time because I was from a town of about 700 people. But that didn’t really put me off because all that drove me was my passion for the game and sports in general. In 2002, he was 20 years old and had not yet signed a professional contract. I still had the ambition to play professionally, but back then my most immediate focus was just being able to pay the rent.
One day, as I was walking down Oxford Terrace in Christchurch, a man stopped me. He greeted me and then started talking to me like we knew each other pretty well. He was a very nice guy. We were just talking about rugby, and he was very curious about my opinions and seemed to know a lot about me. So for the entire time we talked, I kept trying to locate the place where we should have met before. Maybe an old professor? Is this boy a friend of my dad?
I finally realized that this man was nobody that I knew at all. It was just someone who had seen me play that weekend. I’m not going to lie, a part of me thought, on a basic human level, man, okay, that was a bit strange. He had just spent 20 minutes on the side of the street talking to a random pedestrian whom he had pretended to know to be polite.
But then I realized the other side of that. This man had taken 20 minutes out of his day to be nice and chat with me, all because he enjoyed watching me play the game I love. And I realized that the reason we felt we knew each other was because of the passion we shared for the same thing: rugby.
This is a sport that spans many different continents and cultures, but there is a special connection between fans everywhere. It’s something peculiar, this game where you can be absolutely brutal on the field for 80 minutes, and then everything is behind you.
It was surreal as my career progressed and more and more fans began to take an interest in my form. When I started receiving my first fan letters, I made it a point to try to respond to each and every one. The victories always felt so much more special because he knew he was making so many people happy. And the losses hurt a lot more because I was really committed to not wanting to disappoint those who supported me.
My first international game with the All Blacks was against Wales in 2003. I was only 21 years old, basically still a kid, and one of the things I remember the most was sitting on my locker before the game, looking around with my eyes. very open.
Those posters that covered my walls growing up? They had come to life. All the players around me were guys I had adored growing up. Honestly, it felt like an out-of-body experience. Of course, I was trying to clear my head for the match, but I was also in awe to be sitting there among those legends. Feeling almost like, who let me in here?
I stopped thinking about how happy I was to be there and the dream of winning a Cap for the All Blacks. Instead, all he could think of was wanting to do this again. And again. And again
From the first time I lifted a ball, rugby has always been what I wanted to do. I just love it. I love everything about it. And for most of my life, it has been my biggest focus. It has required a ton of sacrifices. To dedicate your life to a sport, this physique asks a lot from your body. I pushed mine further than I ever thought I could, but with the support of my family and the treatment of world-class medical and training staff, I succeeded.
If you told me a year before the 2015 World Cup, when I had several injuries, my form was suffering and I had serious doubts that I would enter the squad, that I would compete for another half decade until I was 38 years old and win championships on three continents. different, there’s no chance I would have believed you. He just couldn’t imagine that he was going to be so lucky.
The physical pains took their toll, and I still feel them in abundance when I wake up in the morning, but today I am healthy and cured. The time I have sacrificed away from my family, however, I know is something that I cannot get back. After our season in Japan was canceled and I returned home to New Zealand to be with my family, I realized that I never wanted to leave them again. And with our fourth child now on the way, I know I have too many future memories with the most important people in my life that I can’t afford to miss out on.
My wife, Honor, still doesn’t really believe that I have retired. More than anyone, she is the reason I have been able to play as long as I have. As I have continued to pursue the dreams I had since I was a child, she has been my rock. But I am ready for what comes after rugby.
I always knew that my career was not going to last forever. This game is much bigger than any player. Ultimately, we are just custodians and we can only hope to leave the game in better shape than we found it.
My biggest hope is that maybe there is at least one person who, while watching me play, might have had a little spark burning inside of her. And maybe that spark motivated them to pursue their own impossible dream.
And maybe, if you put all your heart and focus on it, you could also learn that your impossible dreams, as it turns out, are not so impossible after all.