Dan Carter kicked 273 goals in an hour. How many can you do? (Image: Tina Tiller)
Dan Carter kicked 273 goals in an hour. How many can you do? (Image: Tina Tiller)

SportsMay 4, 2024

Dan Carter won’t stop kicking

Dan Carter kicked 273 goals in an hour. How many can you do? (Image: Tina Tiller)
Dan Carter kicked 273 goals in an hour. How many can you do? (Image: Tina Tiller)

After a long and illustrious career as a goal kicker, Dan Carter’s favourite way to unwind is… kicking goals. Why can’t he get enough of it? And what it’s like to watch him do it for an hour straight?

A semicircle of people wielding cameras and phones has formed in the Eden Park changing rooms to watch Dan Carter put on his rugby boots. “I actually used to sit over there,” he says quietly, gesturing to the opposite side of the room. “Do you want to move?” asks one of the photographers. “Nah, it’s all the same.”

It is not natural to have this many people watching you tie your laces. Lesser mortals would wilt under the spotlight. But Carter confidently executes two flawless knots, and does it with a smile on his face. This is someone who is used to performing in high pressure situations.

I am part of the semicircle, phone out, stooped over and snapping away as if my career depends on it. A professional photographer is sprawled on the ground to get the perfect angle, while a videographer is artfully panning back and forth between his boots and his face. This footage will soon be sent to all media in a Dropbox folder, I know this, but in the moment the only thing that matters is getting as many photos of Dan Carter putting his boots on as possible.

The professional shot (Photo: Supplied)

The reason we’re here is to witness the launch of his latest charity fundraiser, the Beat Dan Carter challenge. In the introductory press conference, he explains that it combines two of his biggest passions in life: “kicking … and giving back to children in need.” He appears to hesitate slightly after saying “kicking”, perhaps recognising how strange it sounds, but it’s the truth: he really, really, really loves kicking.

Most professional kickers stop kicking, or at least don’t kick anywhere near as much, after hanging up their boots. But it’s possible that Carter has actually kicked more since retiring from rugby than he did when he was playing. What is it about kicking that he can’t seem to quit? 

“I watch a game now and there’s not one part of me that wants to play,” he tells me later. “But kicking is different.”

This is what pure contentment looks like (Photo: Supplied)

To Carter, kicking has become a form of meditation. “If I’m ever busy with work or other things I like to grab a bag of rugby balls and go down to the local park and just kick,” he says. “It’s therapeutic for me. And now to be able to do it for an even bigger purpose makes it even more meaningful.”

Beat Dan Carter is a sequel to the 24-Hour Kickathon he did in 2022, where he kicked over 1,500 goals on Eden Park and raised more than $500,000 for Unicef. He’s been involved with the charity since 2016, and was promoted to the role of ambassador in 2021. His DC10 Fund is focused on helping children in the Pacific get access to safe drinking water and other essentials. 

My motivations for being here are less altruistic. I have never been inside the changing rooms at Eden Park before, nor have I set foot on the pitch, and this might be the only chance I ever get, short of paying $50 for a stadium tour. I’m also curious to find out: what’s it like to watch Dan Carter kick goals for an hour straight?

It’s a calm, sunny autumn day out in the middle, and unexpectedly hot. Someone from the charity hands out teal coloured Unicef hats, which make everybody look like they’re reporting from a humanitarian crisis. The reality couldn’t be further from it: we are gathered at the eastern end of the pristine Eden Park pitch, where one set of goalposts has been fenced off and lined with outdoor tables, umbrellas, bean bags and a DJ booth.

The Beat Dan Carter challenge is pretty simple: Dan Carter kicks as many goals he can in an hour, then people doing the challenge have to try and kick more than him. Similar to classic fundraising challenges like Jump Rope for Heart or the 40 Hour Famine, participants are encouraged to solicit donations from friends and family, either pledged on a per goal basis or as a lump sum.

The rules are minimal, too: one hour, one ball, one tee (optional). You can kick it from anywhere – Carter’s tee is positioned about 10 metres out and right in front of the posts, a position from which it’s probably harder to not kick a goal. 

He didn’t miss once (Photo: Supplied)

After a 10-second countdown, the first kick is anticlimactic: he takes a half-step forward, gently chips the ball over the crossbar, then takes a step back while the tee is replaced and the ball is returned to him by his methodical five-person support team. For the first 10 or 15 minutes of this, time feels like it has never passed more slowly. Most of the other media begin to drift away, but I am committed to the cause of passive experiential journalism.

It’s tempting to think that Carter is not trying very hard. He’s definitely not doing his full biomechanically-optimised kicking routine, and he doesn’t seem to be in that much of a hurry. The most pressure he faces is from a group of primary school children on the bean bags, who sporadically and loudly urge him to “go faster”, among other words of encouragement.

Go faster (Photo: Supplied)

The more I watch, however, the more I come around to the possibility he might be making it look a lot easier than it actually is. I see the merit in his philosophy of goal kicking as a form of meditation – there is something zen in the way every kick is exactly the same, even when he switches it up and kicks with his left foot. The tee cartwheels then rolls to a stop in the same place every time, just as the ball lands in the spot on the dead ball line every time, over and over and over again, all to a soundtrack of upbeat house music. 

By the time an hour has passed, Carter has repeated this action 273 times. It’s an achievable target, he reckons, and by my back-of-an-envelope calculations I think so too. To give it a proper crack you’d probably need at least a two-person support crew to return the ball and reposition the tee (and probably another person to keep count), and maintain a pace of five goals a minute – a kick every 12 seconds.

The target (Photo: Supplied)

But if you’re not that good at kicking, the challenge is designed to be adapted to all abilities. “It’s pretty relaxed,” Carter says. “The most important thing is getting out there and finding some sponsors and raising money, then just getting outside and having fun.” 

Everyone who signs up to take part also gets access to a series of videos in which Carter guides them through a training programme leading up to the challenge’s official kickoff date in June. Surprisingly, this is the only form of kicking mentorship Dan Carter is doing right now. He sometimes chats about it on the phone with league legend turned kicking coach Daryl Halligan, but mostly it remains “a hobby”.

“But if anyone wants to ask me any advice or anything I’m an open book and happy to share what I know”, he adds. 

“I know quite a lot about kicking.”

To register and learn more about the Beat Dan Carter challenge to to beatdancarter.com

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