The 36-19 win at Olympic Park saw the return of the Crusaders' All Black contingent including Ritchie McCaw, the leading candidate for the vacant captaincy, and Carter.
Carter was returning from a well-earned short break having guided New Zealand to three trophies and just one defeat in 12 months of success on the field - marred only by injury in the Tri-Nations.
But it is all systems go again for the country's record points scorer.
"Over the break I tried to get away from rugby - but I'm sure in a few years time I'll look back at certain games," Carter told The Press.
"It was a great season but I've put it all behind me now. It was something I'll treasure but this is a whole new season, I'm playing with different people so my game's going to have to improve from last year.
"I've been working pretty hard over the last few weeks. My fitness isn't too bad but I'm probably lacking a bit of match fitness, not having played a game for around seven weeks.
"I didn't really do much in December, I just really chilled out and enjoyed the weather before kicking back into it January.
"I love playing the game. Once you haven't played for a couple of months you're keen to get back into it again."
Crusaders open their campaign against Highlanders at Jade Stadium, Christchurch on February 11.