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Blood sweat and rugby

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai

Hauraki North Rugby; After 15 seasons and 225 games it’s “time to hang the boots up”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Blood sweat and rugby.

That’s a phrase that veteran Hauraki North Rugby Club front rower and captain Lee Carter is very familiar with.

Carter, 37, made his debut in the Blue Bulls uniform in 2006.

Last Saturday's McClinchy Cup final between Hauraki North and Whangamata at Rhodes Park was Carter's last game. He has stepped down to spend more time with his family.

Captain Lee Carter with his wife Tara Carter and son. Photo / Supplied

Sadly, he didn’t manage to go out on a winning note.

It was a tough loss for Hauraki North, who went down 33-20 to a team they beat 50-0 in the season opener.

Despite the disappointing defeat, Carter displayed his 17 years of wisdom when he said:

"I said to the boys after the game just three things. Remember all the good stuff, forget the ones you did wrong and come back next year strong”.

The front rower is considering his career and is ready to "hang his boots up," but his unwavering commitment to the club is proof of his leadership.

“When I think back to how I walked in through the North doors 17 years ago to now, there is an enormous difference."

After his first full season, the hooker played two seasons in Scotland and three in England.

He made a comeback in 2013 when he returned home to start a family.

“As a young single man when I first started, North had a lot of appeal, good teams, coaching, and a long history of arranging quite a few overseas trips,” Carter says.

There were also strong mentors in North figures like Kelvin Barker, Chris Allen and Roddy Douglas. This was important, as Carter did not come from a rugby family.

“Those three are all Royal North men who helped shape me as a rugby player,” Carter says.

“Like anything in life, it's always easy to know what you should have in a situation when you look back on it.

“So it wasn't always just a bit more than just turning up to train twice a week and play on Saturday.”

Carter aspires to be like one of the heroes in the North club, Karl Davis.

Davis is a veteran who played for Hauraki North and filled every position from wing to prop and retired at the age of 47.

Despite not succeeding in his attempt to emulate him, Carter has, after 17 years, made the decision to "hang up his boots and focus on his family as his body is getting a little sore".

The North has been topping the standings every weekend.

The journey to the final had been a captivating one for Hauraki North, displaying mana.

Hauraki North president Andrew Williams says, “I've been lucky enough to be involved in six finals myself, but it's guys like Bill (coach) and Lee who build a structure that makes guys want to train twice a week; that's something that hasn't happened, hence why they're here today.”

Senior A head coach Bill Cooksley (57), in his second year in the role, emphasises; “togetherness and connection” are what made the team stand out.

“We've bought into different cultures and have bonded really well. It's about the mana that has gone before us with the likes of Captain Lee.

“In order to be successful, you've got to surround yourself with good people, We are surrounded by good people - sponsors, community, players, and their partners, without them, we don't have a team,” says Cooksley says.

Hero Image: From Left President Andrew Williams, Captain Lee Carter and Coach Bill Cooksley. Photo / Supplied

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