How the world's best rugby player spent a year on a dairy farm in Ireland
All-Black Beauden Barrett may be one of the greatest rugby players on the planet but his former abode in the village of Ballinacree, Co Meath still holds a special place in his heart.
In the autumn of 1999, Beauden's father Kevin, a former rugby player and dairy farmer with Irish roots, was offered a two year 'farm swap' opportunity to move his family from Pungarehu, a small town in South Taranaki, New Zealand, to the rural parish outside Oldcastle to manage a dairy farm.
And so the Barretts, Kevin and Robyn, and their six children - later eight - Kane, Beauden, Scott, Blake, Jordie and Jenna made the 20,000km trip.
The kids all enrolled in St Fiach's National School, where nine-year-old Kane and eight-year-old Beauden immersed themselves in the school's U-10 GAA side, and the local St Brigid's GAA team. Beauden, still known by locals as young 'Beaudy', excelled as a powerful midfielder.
Last year, when asked if that GAA experience had something to do with the incredible ability of Beauden, named World Rugby's Player of the Year in 2016, to land cross-field kicks in his wings' hands? His father replied: "I have no doubt, you can claim fame to that!".
In an interview in Chicago after Ireland recorded a first ever win over New Zealand, Beauden (26), said: "Gaelic football was a sport I really enjoyed playing over there. A lot of the skill sets are similar".
In 2013, after Ireland suffered a last-gasp loss to New Zealand at the Aviva, Beauden returned to St Fiach's to talk to pupils and staff and perform his personal haka.
Now the top international rugby player is supporting the north Meath GAA club's fundraiser by donating a signed All-Black rugby jersey with autographs of the All-Blacks World Rugby Champions 2015.
Barney Tighe, club official said: "The Barretts were very hard working and hugely involved in the community, Kevin milked 300 cows.
"Our kids were the same age and we lived close by, they used to kick ball together in the back lawn. Beauden took to the GAA very quickly, he was a terrific midfielder.
"They left in late 2002 . It was a big loss to the local GAA club and potentially a massive loss to the county. My son went out to work with them on their organic farm in New Zealand in 2010 and played a season with their local rugby club".
Funds from the jersey auction, expected to go under the hammer for at least €2,000, will go towards improving the club grounds. The closing date is the end of August.
If you would like to place a bid on the jersey contact Barney Tighe on (087) 2271828.
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