WHEELING, W.Va. – This past weekend, Dan Carter, one of the world’s greatest rugby players for the famed New Zealand All-Blacks, made headlines when he returned to the playing field after taking a sabbatical from rugby.
However, even the best player in the world can’t just walk back into his pro team after taking six months off to revitalize his body. So Carter returned to the field at the place where his career began, the tiny Southbridge Rugby Club just south of Christchurch, New Zealand.
To make a comparison for American sports fans… it would be like Derek Jeter returning to bat for Kalamazoo Central High School where the legendary New York Yankee first played ball.
While fans and photographers crowded the Southbridge rugby grounds last Saturday, all eyes were firmly on Carter. However, for Wheeling Jesuit’s Max Lum, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to pull on a jersey, and actually take the field with one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Since February, Lum (a sophomore from Advance, N.C.) has been in New Zealand playing rugby for Southbridge Rugby Club while taking a semester off school to improve his game. Last Saturday, Lum and Carter both found themselves in the starting lineup.
It’s not every American college student who gets the opportunity to take the field next to a person who enjoys mega-star status around the globe.
“Being able to play with one of the world’s greatest rugby players is a very humbling experience,” said Lum. “To be able to get a small taste of what an All-Black can do is just amazing.”
“I felt every time he had the ball in his hand, he had all the time in the world. Just playing one game with him was a huge learning experience, one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” added Lum.
While Lum didn’t score in the game, he had plenty of personal highlights receiving passes from Carter to pick up yardage for his squad as they went on to beat North Canterbury rivals, Glenmark Rugby Club by a score of 51-10.
Lum and Carter will take the field for Southbridge once again this weekend as Carter regains fitness to make another push to play for the All-Blacks.
Lum plans to return to WJU in the fall to take the field for the Cardinals.