The incredible story of the 29-year-old prop: first sparring partner in training, then the contract with the Crusaders and the call to the national team. And the name? “My name is actually George, but my first employer renamed me …”
The world of sport has always been quite generous with fairy tales. But a story like that of George “Giorgio” Bower, prop of the All Blacks who will challenge Italy in Rome on Saturday, had never been heard before. He was studying to be a teacher, he improvised a barber, he acted as a sparring partner in training first to the All Blacks and then to the Crusaders. Then, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him, he went so far as to make his debut a year ago with the jersey that all New Zealand rugby players dream of. The story is long and tortuous, but impossible not to tell.
George, born in New Zealand of Fijian parents, studied at Taita College in Wellington, the same one attended by former All Blacks captain Brad Shields, with some appearances in the rugby team: a few pennies from games starting from the bench. After high school, he went to play with the Avalon club, before moving to Dunedin where he would go to study to become a teacher. In 2014 he also collected a cap with the Otago shirt in the provincial championship, but it was only in 2018 that he found some more satisfaction and another 6 appearances. He was a right prop, but after the move to Dunedin he was used as a left to fill the open position. In spite of a less than promising career, Bower continued to work hard and make himself available to both Otago’s B team and the starting team. The following summer comes a “strange” call: they are the Christchurch Crusaders, who ask him to join their camp, since almost all the props are in the national team. “Before, in Otago, a series of circumstances, absences and injuries, had allowed me to collect some presence and I had not gone badly. In fact, I had also sometimes wondered if it was worth it … Now I am sure: of course Yes!”. Assistant coach Jason Ryan suggested he put on some weight to return to the next camp and join the team full time. So within two years, the Otago B reserve found themselves playing and winning the Super Rugby final with the Crusaders.
However, moving to Christchurch did not distract him from his studies. And with a certain notoriety, questions have also arrived to dissolve some personal curiosity. “Why Giorgio? My first employer in Wellington called me that (we deduce that he was an Italian, ed.). And he stuck to me every time I came back. But then I thought it was better to go back to the name I had. my parents had given. ” Although on the Instagram profile, where Bower often jokes about his lack of notoriety, Giorgio remained … Speaking of Italians: and the history of the barber? “I couldn’t afford to pay 40 dollars every time … So I equipped myself, I followed some tutorials on YouTube, I settled with two mirrors to cover every corner and I started cutting them myself. Then, given the success, some companions team asked me to take advantage of it. They used to come home: it was certainly a bit strange to find in the kitchen of my apartment some All Blacks who came to cut their hair… “. Among his “customers”, in fact, also Vaea Fifita, Nehe Milner-Skudder, but also Tevita Kuridrani, who even visited him taking advantage of a Wallabies match in Dunedin.
And then came 2020. Two years earlier, when he was still playing for the Harbor and Otago B clubs, the All Blacks had called him to be a sparring partner in training: $ 150 for an extra day of work and to pay for the House rent. So when he got to the Crusaders, he went to Captain Kieran Read to ask him if he remembered using it as a tackle bag: “It was funny to see his face as if to say ‘ah, that’s where I saw you before.’ those occasions are not that the faces of those who come just to be tackled count for something “. In October a year ago, the continuity of performance shown with the Crusaders and the concussion suffered by Joe Moody opened the doors of the call-up to the national team. When they told him, at times he starts to cry. Which the parents did when he called them on the phone. The debut, however, came only this year in the test with Tonga and then other appearances, up to the 9 caps that he counts today after taking over from the game in progress last Saturday in Cardiff with Wales. And that Saturday with Italy could become 10: on the other hand which opponent could be more suitable for “Giorgio the barber”?
November 2, 2021 (change November 2, 2021 | 09:39)
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The tale of “Giorgio” Bower: he was a barber, today he plays in the All Blacks