Dan Carter announced a shock Super Rugby comeback with Auckland Blues on Thursday at the age of 38, saying he’d realized during the coronavirus lockdown how much he missed the game.
Carter, two-time All Blacks World Cup winner and a three-time world player of the year, has been a free agent since he returned to New Zealand in March this year from Japan, where coronavirus prompted lockdown ended his lucrative stint with Kobe Steelers.
“Two things from the lockdown that I realized was that I really enjoyed spending more time with my family and that I miss rugby,” Carter said.
“For me, it is a chance to mentor some young players and to give back to New Zealand rugby,” he added.
The signing follows as New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams prepare to start a domestic tournament next week after COVID-19 halted the southern hemisphere championship in March.
Dan Carter hasn’t really played in his homeland since his international retirement in 2015 when he helped the All Blacks seal back-to-back World Cup titles at Twickenham.
Blues head coach Leon MacDonald said Carter signed a short-term deal as cover for injured fullback Stephen Perofeta. He joins a squad already containing Beauden Barrett, his successor as All Blacks playmaker.
As a replacement player, Carter will reportedly be on a minimum contract worth NZ$1,800 (US$1,155) a week, a huge cut from the millions he earned playing club rugby in France and Japan.
“It definitely not about money, he’s not getting rich doing it,” MacDonald said.
As the Blues already have Barrett — himself a two-time world player of the year — Carter may fill the role of super-sub off the bench.
“I have not played for several months so it will take me a little bit of time to get game-ready,” he said.
Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry had no doubt Carter still had the ability to play at the top level, despite his age.
“It’s marvelous, he’ll add a huge amount of experience but he’s also been playing very well in Japan,” Henry told Radio New Zealand.
All Blacks halfback and former teammate Aaron Smith tweeted: “The goat (greatest of all time) is back in Super rugby!”