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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jittery ex-All Black ponders future after deadly quake

Former All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall 

Jittery ex-All Black ponders future after deadly quake

Last updated 19:20 05/03/2011
WHAT NEXT?: Former All Blacks halfback Justin Marshall has been left pondering his future after the deadly Christchurch quake

Justin Marshall never took a backward step on a rugby field though these days he surveys his Sumner backyard with a sense of trepidation.

The All Blacks most capped halfback sums up the dilemma facing residents of earthquake-plagued Christchurch - rebuild or relocate?

Marshall admits the 6.3-magnitude quake on February 22 has forced him to reassess his family's future in the fractured seaside suburb - one of the city's worst-affected.

The 37-year-old was in Auckland on business commitments as the quake struck and endured an anxious wait before reuniting with wife Nicolle and their boys the following day.

"It was the most frustrated and biggest sense of helplessness I've ever felt in my life," Marshall said.

"To hear my son on the phone saying 'Daddy come and help me, come and help me' and not be able to do anything was just awful."

Marshall spent seven hours waiting in vain for a flight to Christchurch and once he made it south the 81-test international was unnerved by the state of his property, neighbourhood and the city centre.

The family promptly evacuated to Queenstown, leaving behind a house requiring extensive repairs.

Marshall echoed the thoughts of many Cantabrians when wondering what happens next after relishing his return to the province after spending the past five years of his playing career in Europe.

"I got to the point that I couldn't wait to get home and set up a new life there and we had started really well.

"The kids were in their element at school; we met some great people and caught up with the old mates I played with.

"We were settled and then September happened. It wasn't great but you think it's a freak one-off incident - then it happens again.

''I have to be fair, family safety comes into the equation. My wife's been in two of them (earthquakes) now, she doesn't feel comfortable."

Marshall retired from rugby in May last year but his combative instinct remains - he would prefer to stay.

"I'm really loathe to turn my back on Christchurch and Sumner," he said.

One of the inaugural Crusaders back in 1996, Marshall played 105 times for Super rugby's most successful team and was unsurprised the current squad overcame a disjointed and emotional build-up to beat the NSW Waratahs 33-18 in Nelson last night.

"Whenever there's a game involving any sort of point of significance, a personal milestone, a team one or anything to do with unfortunate incidents or death .... if you're emotional about it you actually want to play," he said.

"You have that burning feeling in the bottom of your gut - the best way to release it for a sportsman is to do what they do, to go out there and release that emotion."

Meanwhile, Marshall held out hope Christchurch would retain its status as a World Cup host city in September-October despite the central business district being basically obliterated.

AMI Stadium was not seriously damaged but the CBD's infrastructure - including hotels - has been reduced to rubble.

Marshall said visitors could still be accommodated with some forward planning.

"There's enough places around the Christchurch area to get people housed," he said.

"If the city's sensible, if we put buses on and let the fans have a few drinks on the way to the stadium .... if we can get that up and running I'm sure we can accommodate the people some way.

"It'll be a real shame for Christchurch to be broken like it is now and also miss out on what New Zealanders love.

"I'm sure we're innovative enough to make sure it can go ahead here."

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