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100 greatest All Blacks ever: 80 to 71

abnutta Roar Guru

By abnutta, abnutta is a Roar Guru

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    Part three of our ten part series looking at the greatest All Blacks of all time, ranked in order from 100 to 1…

    80. Bill Irvine (1923-1930 – 41 matches)
    On the 1924/5 Invincibles tour of the United Kingdom, where he and Quentin Donald comprised the two man front row in all four Test matches, Irvine was one of the outstanding performers, playing in 27 of the 30 matches, a remarkable feat for a forward.

    Played for the record setting Hawkes Bay Ranfurly Shield side from 1922-26 and in 1927 helped Wairarapa lift the shield from his former provincial union.

    79. Neville Alfred ‘Brushy’ Mitchell (1935-1938 – 32 matches)
    Though often chosen at centre, his most effective rugby on the 1935/36 British tour came on the wing, a team-mate Eric Tindill later describing his play on the flanks as “outstanding”. A relatively big man for the time, Mitchell had speed, elusiveness and determination.

    Captained an unbeaten touring side to Australia in 1938. Nathaniel Arthur Mitchell had the distinction of appearing for both Southland and Otago unions when in those years they had a monopoly on holding the Ranfurly Shield.

    78. George Hart (1930-1936 – 35 matches)
    The outstanding All Black wing of the 1930s. A top class sprinter, who won the New Zealand 100 yard championship title in 1931, it was his inside-outside swerve that gave him his rugby powers.

    A prolific try scorer, touching down 42 times in 40 matches for Canterbury and on 28 occasions in 35 All Black matches. Died of wounds sustained when hit by a shell during the advance from Cassino, Italy in 1944.

    77. John Gallagher (1986-1989 – 41 matches)
    On pure rugby ability, John Gallagher rates high among the best of All Black fullbacks. He took over the position during the 1987 World Cup and over the next three seasons in 18 Tests became an automatic selection in the position and in those years was close to being the world’s best.

    The All Blacks’ first truly attacking fullback in the modern sense with the record to match, he scored 35 tries in 41 matches.

    76. Olo Brown (1990-1998 – 69 matches)
    With his technique and straightness of back, Brown was the cornerstone of All Black and Auckland packs during the 1990s and was rated by scrummaging experts as one of the finest props to play for New Zealand at any time.

    His provincial and Test teammate, Sean Fitzpatrick, swore by his prowess and few scrums anchored by Brown were ever bettered.

    75. Grant Batty (1972-1977 – 56 matches)
    A freakish wing talent. Batty was only 1.65m, weighed 69kg and looked like a halfback, but had speed, elusiveness with the sidestep, swerve or change of pace, a brilliant kick over or around an opponent and a very sound defence.

    He could also show bristling aggression and a preparedness to mix it with heavyweight opponents. Scored 109 tries in 142 first class matches, including 45 tries in 56 All Black matches.

    74. Steve McDowall (1985-1992 – 81 matches)
    At his best in the late 1980s Steve McDowall as a loosehead prop ranked among the world’s best and among the finest in the position produced by New Zealand.

    An excellent scrummager, a superb mauler and explosive when he burst frequently into the open, especially in his halcyon years between 1985 and 1990. McDowall was an Auckland mainstay and was involved in all of the province’s triumphs of the late 80s at Ranfurly Shield and NPC levels.

    73. Tiny Hill (1955-1959 – 19 matches)
    His granite like appearance and unremitting style of play created an everlasting impression as the prototype tight-loose forward of his era.

    Hill played in four different positions in the pack but was probably more suited to lock and helped the All Blacks to win two of the most memorable series in history – against the Springboks in 1956 and the Lions in 1959.

    72. Bruce McLeod (1964-1970 – 46 matches)
    A powerful man physically, energetic and quick around the field, and with a hard-nosed attitude, McLeod played in a period when the All Black pack was consistently strong.

    His record shows that he was among the best New Zealand hookers and a central figure in the All Blacks’ record run of 52 matches unbeaten from 1965-1970.

    71. Stan Meads (1961-1966 – 30 matches)
    Sir Colin Meads considered him the best of his All Black locking partners. Like his elder brother, he was a forward who could play in the lock, flank or No. 8 positions as required.

    Strong, mobile and a fine lineout forward, Stan was a member of some formidable All Black packs during the 1960s, which saw off the touring 1965 Springboks 3-1 and the 1966 Lions 4-0. In the late 1960s there were some wise rugby critics who considered Stan to be the equal of his brother.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • November 20th 2012 @ 5:36am
      The Grafter said | November 20th 2012 @ 5:36am | ! Report

      Very true about Stan Meads being the equal to Colin. Some even went so far to suggest Stan was a better player.

      • Columnist

        November 20th 2012 @ 7:11am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 20th 2012 @ 7:11am | ! Report

        Then I’d respectfully suggest that they were wrong. Stan was a fine player and together they were an awesome pair. But Stan didn’t have the extra dimension that Colin had, the pace, power and elusiveness in the open, and one handed ball skills, 50 years ahead of SBW…

        • November 20th 2012 @ 8:32am
          The Grafter said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:32am | ! Report

          Was before my time Allanthus. I can remember Colin playing his final year, and have seen alot of of footage of him smashing through defences with ball in one hand. The training tape of him jogging around the farm in work boots carrying a tree is classical. I believe big Col still chops in own firewood in Te Kuiti. A blokes bloke that is a legend.

          To my knowledge Stan looked after the family farm thus retiring from rugby?

          • Columnist

            November 20th 2012 @ 8:51am
            Geoff Parkes said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report

            They both continued to farm, during and after rugby, separate properties on either side of the highway.

            For the sake of the legend it would be disappointing if Colin actually used an axe to chop firewood – we’d all like to think he just breaks it into pieces with his bare hands….

            • November 20th 2012 @ 11:33am
              Jeff said | November 20th 2012 @ 11:33am | ! Report

              Yes but Stan retired because one of them had to look after the farm.They couldn’t both continue to play rugby.Stan considered Colin a better player than him so he retired. A great sacrifice.

    • Roar Guru

      November 20th 2012 @ 8:48am
      Wal said | November 20th 2012 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      I have loved watching footage of Batty, such a combative halfback for a bloke so small.
      Stepping a ducking through gaps long hair flowing behind, big mo leading the way

      • November 20th 2012 @ 10:04am
        Riccardo said | November 20th 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        That mo Wal!

        Watching him running off Going down the blind was sublime.

        He was a tough little rooster as well.

      • Roar Guru

        November 20th 2012 @ 10:57am
        Argyle said | November 20th 2012 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Wal or anyone – was there any truth to the rumour that Batty left New Zealand under dubious circumstances?

        • November 20th 2012 @ 12:44pm
          Peepers said | November 20th 2012 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          Adjudged bankrupt I believe.

          • Columnist

            November 20th 2012 @ 1:07pm
            Geoff Parkes said | November 20th 2012 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

            He also showed up on the Ali G show….

            as in “you is a batty boy…”

    • Roar Guru

      November 20th 2012 @ 1:31pm
      abnutta said | November 20th 2012 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

      Tiny Hill is one of my all time favs.

      He was credited by Colin Meads as being the player who most influenced his “enforcer” style game when Meads was on his debut tour with Hill to Australia in 1957.

      During the 1959 Lions tour he was criticised by the British press as being a “softie” for wearing shoulder pads. There’s a famous photo of him monstering the Lions half back Dickie Jeeps. Hill later contended that he only wore the shoulder pads for the protection of others – he used to fly into rucks so hard he would injure his teammates and opponents alike.

      Tiny Hill’s former Canterbury provincial team-mate Kel Tremain was playing for Auckland in a 1960 Shield match. Tremain was being a “nuisance” in the lineouts and was forewarned by Hill. The reply was something along the lines of “try it old man”… Tremain regained consciusness in the Eden Park change rooms.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 4:21pm
      Atawhai Drive said | November 20th 2012 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

      Keep ’em coming, abnutta. This is an enjoyable series.

      I’m keeping a running total of how many of these players I saw ‘in the flesh’, as it were. Not necessarily with the All Blacks _ some of these blokes carried on at provincial and club level long after their AB days were over. Ross Brown, for example.

      Someone with the requisite time and knowledge might be tempted to do an equivalent Wallabies list.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 4:27pm
      Bruce Rankin said | November 20th 2012 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

      Abnutta, initially put this in your first set… it’s good to see your contribution and I look forward to the next 7 instalments. Also that you are responding to the various comments. I have a copy of Paul Verdon’s book – in my view an excellent read and a great record. Debate on who constitutes the top 100 and the players ranking is naturally a subjective and endless comparison – perhaps one of the joys of reflecting on the legends of the game and its finest moments!

      Very pleased to see your inclusion of Tiny Hill. In Bob Howitt’s book ‘New Zealand Rugby Greats’ Colin Meads stated (p199): “That was Tiny Hill – the hardest footballer I ever knew.” Hard to better that tribute.

      Pleasing to see there are several from the 2001-12 era included: Ma’a Nonu (not convinced tho), Chris Jack, Sivivatu, Jerry Collins, Mils Muliaina and Tony Woodcock. No doubt we’ll see included in the 1-70 the likes of: Mealamu, Brad Thorn, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and others.

      I’m just hoping that one anomaly from “Tribute” will be fixed by your good self – the omission of Dennis Young (1956-64). He played 22 tests + 39 games for a total of 61 matches for the All Blacks. Plus I recall he was never outhooked in his first class and All Black career. I recall seeing him play in the Canterbury v Waikato Shield challenge of 1954, when the great Has Catley was hooker for Waikato. Young outhooked him. (admittedly Catley was 38 at the time.) Compare Dennis Young’s All Black record with Has Catley and Ron Hemi – who in total played only a few more test and games than Young:
      Has Catley 7 tests, 14 games, 21 matches total. No doubt Catley was a great hooker, BUT 4 of Catley’s tests were v the Springboks in 1949 when they lost all 4 tests, and scrums went backwards in the first 2.
      Ron Hemi 16 tests, 30 games, 46 matches total. Hemi a better all round player than Young, but in 8 seasons (53-60) he played only 30 matches in all for Waikato! (Dennis Young 139 for Canterbury)
      Total 23 tests, 44 games, 67 matches.

      Of course the number of matches played for the AB’s is not justification in itself for inclusion, but you don’t play for the AB’s for 9 years without being one of the best! And Young was first choice hooker for 5 years from 60-64, when he missed only one test: the NZ v Australia test in Dunedin in 1962 – which I saw – Creighton’s only test. Unless someone can show otherwise, my contention is nobody – but nobody – outhooked Dennis Young. For Catley and Hemi to be selected (justifiably in my view) in Tribute but not Young is unfortunate.

      Another anomaly was Mark Nicholls at 14 in Tribute, who was displaced by Lance Johnson (1925-30) at 1st 5/8th in the first 3 Springbok tests in 1928 in South Africa. “Given his previous record, Johnson may have been expected to fill a grafter’s role on tour, but his form was a revelation. He hit top form immediately and stayed at that level throughout the arduous trip. No back appeared in more matches than his 16 (out of 23) and he played in all four tests, displacing the great Mark Nicholls at first-five in the first three. Johnson moved out one place as Nicholls returned for the final match”. (AB’s website) So how good was Johnson!? Lance Johnson was Canterbury selector in 1949-50 lifting the Ranfurly Shield from Otago, and son Warren/Kim wrote a great book about him only 2 years ago. (Sadly Warren died not long afterwards.) Lance Johnson was a quiet, shy gentleman whose deeds on the paddock spoke for themselves, compared to the reputedly outspoken and abrasive Nicholls. I’m not suggesting selection of Johnson ahead of Nicholls though…… just that Nicholls may have been rated too highly.

      • Roar Guru

        November 21st 2012 @ 12:22am
        abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:22am | ! Report

        Hi Bruce

        It’s pretty tough when you consider there’s so much talent that will inevitably miss out. I’m sure you’ll notice some “Tribute” names missing already.

        I also attempted to address anomalies where I saw a need either adding to or omitting from the 2001 list, even adjusting the order in some cases. But rest assured it was not done lightly and the final 100 retains a remarkable similarity when taken in totality. If there was no research or clear evidence to back it up an edit, I’d leave it untouched.

        Some omissions will go by barely noticed by most. However looking at the entire list as I type, I can see one omission from the 2001 list which will no doubt raise some eyebrows I’m sure. It was my oversight and because I had already submitted the articles containing those ranked 51-100 I have to leave 1-50 as is.

        Lets see if you can pick it when all the articles are up. I might follow up with an “unlucky triallists” article detailing those who came close and those omitted from the 2001 list.

        Regarding Mark Nicholls, I respectfully disagree. I could go on and on about Nicholls but you probably already know. As I never saw him play, everything I know comes from books which you’ve probably also read. If that’s not enough to convince you of his quality then we can leave it at that.

        Lance Johnson was a fine player who also played a leading role in the Hawkes Bay Ranfurly shield era of the early to mid 1920s. Johnson at first five, Bert Cooke at second and Jackie Blake at Centre were a formidable combination.

      • Roar Guru

        November 21st 2012 @ 2:18am
        abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 2:18am | ! Report

        For me the most glaring omission from the 2001 list was the fact that every All Black who had played 100 matches or more for New Zealand made the list… except one. And that one player was the best in his position in New Zealand for the better part of a decade and consistently one of if not the best in the world.

        That has been rectified though.

    • November 20th 2012 @ 5:01pm
      The Grafter said | November 20th 2012 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

      Im interested to see if Keith Murdoch gets a mention in the top 70…….

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