If you went back to New Zealand’s Taranaki 25 years ago you may well have seen a small, barefooted local boy running around playing rugby with a strip of Tubigrip on his right foot.
Fast-forward to today and that same boy is the reigning Aviva Premiership Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and one of the most influential backs in European rugby.
The Wasps play-maker grew up on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island and with the outdoor lifestyle that comes with a childhood spent living on a dairy farm.
The former Leinster man is now famed for being one of the best penalty kickers around - his low, punched efforts securing many a crucial point for his clubs over the years – a kicking ability first developed as a youngster.
“Obviously growing up in New Zealand, rugby is embedded in you,” said Gopperth. “It’s what every father wants, for their sons to grow up, play rugby and to be an All Black.
“My dad was a dairy farmer so we’d get up, watch a Test and then go and milk the cows!
“As soon as I could walk I’d be playing rugby outside and I’ve just progressed from there really. We used to play barefoot until we were about 12 or 13 years old, then we finally put boots on!
"It was just standard not to wear boots, I used to end up wearing a bit of Tubigrip on my right foot because when I kicked the ball and it was cold it used to hurt quite a bit, it gave me a bit of cushion!
“There would be cold, frosty mornings, chasing the sheep off the rugby ground and it was all good fun, oranges at half-time, and that’s just perfect when you’re a young fella.
“My dad built me some rugby posts in the backyard and you’d be out there kicking rugby balls every day, I just absolutely loved it!”
Gopperth is now most certainly one of the elite but there has been no shortage of hard work or sacrifice along the way.
Moving on from kicking goals in his back garden, the youngster went on to board and play rugby at New Plymouth Boys’ High School, breaking into first XV rugby.
Gopperth was also a keen surfer and tennis player but in New Zealand rugby often comes first and so it would come to be for the Wasps man, who admits to not always prioritising his algebra.
“I was right into my tennis as well,” he added. “I used to play competitively but then my love of surfing took over. You knew you had three tennis matches on one day but you’d also hear the surf was good - I packed the tennis in pretty quickly!
“Living a stone’s throw from the ocean does that, I’d always be diving or fishing or surfing so they were my main hobbies away from rugby.
“As soon as I got to 14 or 15 though I had my mind set on wanting to try and achieve something in rugby, then you have to sacrifice.
“Even school for me took a backwards step. I pushed school behind because I was worried about my rugby. Because it’s so competitive you have to find an edge and be willing to sacrifice things to try and make it.
“I went to school to eat my lunch so that’s alright!”
From school Gopperth went on to play for Old Boys University, Wellington and the Hurricanes, then in the Super 12s.
One season at the Blues followed before the New Zealander was called upon by Newcastle Falcons as a replacement for Toulon-bound Jonny Wilkinson. "Why not try and do something a bit different?"
“I was 25 and competition for the All Blacks was just locked, I couldn’t see myself getting in for a number of years,” said the 34-year-old. “I just thought, with a young family, why not try and do something a bit different?
“It was a way of experiencing Europe as well, when you’re in New Zealand you’re so far away from anything and it was just a good fit.
“I had some good friends in England – Tane Tu’ipulotu from Wellington and Carl Hayman was here, Mark Sorenson, Brent Wilson, heaps of kiwis, which was good and made my transition easier.
“I loved my time up at Newcastle and made some good friendships, I had a ball!”