All Blacks star Jordie Barrett has opened up on the selection snub that drove him towards a rugby career that so nearly didn’t happen.
Such was the sudden rise of his rugby vocation, Barrett went from disappointed teenage cricketer to making his All Black debut against Samoa in just 14 just months.
Barrett has told Rugby Pass he was a “skinny white battler” at Francis Douglas Memorial College who was not even close to making the New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby side in 2014 and nowhere near the top 50 high school rugby players in the country.
Even in the first year of his rugby scholarship at Lincoln University, cricket was Barrett’s top priority. And if it had have worked out, he could have easily walked away from rugby altogether.
“That first year out of school, cricket was more my priority,” Barrett told Rugby Pass.
“I was spending more time in the indoor nets down there at Lincoln University than I was in the gym.”
Barrett had good reason to be focussing on his cricket career.
His 2-53 with the ball and match-winning knock of 42 not out off 26 balls in the inaugural Black Clash charity cricket match for Team Rugby – against a stack of former internationals including Brendon McCullum, Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Grant Elliott – back in 2019, shocked many rugby fans.
But former Zimbabwean test and ODI batsman Dion Ebrahim was not surprised at all.
When Ebrahim first spotted Barrett at primary school in his role as the Hawera United professional, he was adamant he had found Taranaki’s next Black Cap.
Until he learned of the rugby legacy of the Barrett family.
A few years later, when Ebrahim – who played 29 tests and 82 ODIs – was captain of the Taranaki representative side, he played alongside Barrett who made his debut while still at high school.
“He had all the attributes and characteristics to make it as a Black Cap or successful first-class cricketer,” Ebrahim told Stuff last year.
“In my opinion, he was as good of a cricketer as he was a rugby player.”
Despite those standout cricketing abilities, Barrett narrowly missed out on the New Zealand squad for the 2016 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
“I was playing Central Districts under-19’s then, and I was giving the New Zealand under-19s a red-hot crack because there was the World Cup at the end of the year,” Barrett told Rugby Pass.
He was so close to selection, he was placed on standby for the tournament in Bangladesh.
The now Hurricanes star was disappointed at the time that he was unable to play alongside future Black Cap Glenn Phillips and soon to be first-class cricketers Nathan Smith, Josh Finnie, Rachin Ravindra and Josh Clarkson but conceded he might not have been good enough.
But Ebrahim told Stuff the fast bowler and hard-hitting lower-order batsman was unfortunate to miss selection because he carried niggles through much of that summer that blunted his form.
Mid-way through 2016, Barrett’s sporting career was flipped upside-down when a standout season for the Lincoln University premier club rugby side saw him make the New Zealand Under-20 rugby team, and he went on to kick two late match-winning penalties to help Canterbury take the Ranfurly Shield from Waikato.
“And then, that was the same year as the under-20s, and Razor (Scott Robertson) was head coach and he picked me for that, and then picked me in this Canterbury Mitre 10 side so that’s basically where it all started,” Barrett told Rugby Pass.
“It was a funny one because I was getting told by a lot of people from the respective codes that you’ve gotta start choosing, gotta start specialising in one (sic).
“My parents, the whole time, they just keep saying, nah you don’t have to commit to anyone – just keep playing both sports for as long as possible and then whatever happens, happens.
“Basically, that’s all it was. It happened that I didn’t make the under-19 World Cup squad and then I made under-20s for rugby the next year and I didn’t really have a chance to go back to cricket the next summer so it just worked out that way,” Barrett told Rugby Pass.