Photo / File
When 18-year-old Payton Spencer took the field with the All Blacks Sevens in Sydney at the weekend, there were no prouder people in the world than his parents.
His father, former All Black Carlos, said he and wife Jo weren't expecting much from Payton who only finished high school in December, having being called up to Clark Laidlaw's squad as injury cover late last week.
"We were just stoked that he got on the plane, to be honest, and to experience a tournament, let alone getting the game time," Carlos told teaomāori.news
The younger Spencer didn't look out of place in the team, scoring two tries and setting up another in his debut game against Uruguay on day 1 of the tournament. He backed that up with another try against France in the semi-final before helping the New Zealanders to a 38-0 win over South Africa in the final.
Former AB's son runs with the ball on the sevens field.
Despite Carlos having developed a reputation of being a genius on the field during his playing career, and transitioning to coaching after retiring 13 years ago, he says Payton's development is the result of his own hard work and determination.
"He's been surrounded by good people since he was a youngster starting in South Africa and his schooling built around discipline and hard work. And then being part of the Hamilton Boys High School system, he's been blessed here with Nigel Hotham.
No parental interference
"I'd like to think I've had a little bit of an influence on his upbringing but I'm also aware that I've got to be mindful of what I say, and I don't interfere with other people around him, and what feedback they give him."
Carlos understands the pressure that his son will come under carrying his family name as he finds his own way into professional sport.
"I just want him to be the best athlete and human being he can be. That's all we ask for as parents. He's got a great opportunity now. He's making the most of that. He understands he is still young, like we do. It's a matter of keeping his feet grounded, keep working hard, know that he's in a good position, doesn't take that for granted.
'Learning to become better'
"He's been staying with [All Blacks Sevens teammate] Joe Webber for the past four weeks and the young fullah just can't speak highly enough of him and his whānau. He moved into his own apartment today and I think he was sad to leave but that goes to show the sign of not only Joe but the environment those guys are in. He's only going to learn to become a better athlete and a better human."
Payton has signed a two-year contract with the All Blacks Sevens and, after his phenomenal debut, he is setting his sights on selection in the 2024 Olympics team, beginning with the next World Series Tournament next weekend in Los Angeles. As his father did on 89 occasions, he will also be hoping to wear the blue and white hoops of Auckland later this year in the Bunnings NPC competition.