100 greatest All Blacks ever: 30 to 21

abnutta Roar Guru

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

    30. Sir Wilson Whineray (1957-1965 – 77 matches)
    Sir Terry McLean wrote of Whineray: “I would unhesitatingly acclaim him as New Zealand’s greatest captain.” Most would agree with this assessment even allowing for the fact that he has been followed by a number of other fine leaders.

    A fine player and remarkably mobile and athletic in the open, Whineray almost always played at prop but he was also effective as a loose forward occasionally at No 8. In 1965 he won the Supreme Halberg Award, one of only three individual All Blacks to be so honoured.

    29. Don Clarke (1956-1964 – 89 matches)
    Don Clarke drove terror into the hearts of the opposition with his prodigious kicking. Having once kicked a 77m penalty against King Country in Te Kuiti, it was a regular occurrence for “The Boot” to kick penalties and drop goals from well inside his own half.

    He was directly responsible for All Black victory in 16 of the 31 Test matches he played. When he retired from test rugby he had amassed a world record 207 points – more than double the total of the second placed Jean Prat of France with 90 points. In 1959 he won the Supreme Halberg Award, one of only three individual All Blacks to be so honoured.

    28. Wayne Shelford (1985-1990 – 48 matches)
    The most dominant No 8 in the country, he was an automatic choice for the World Cup. Shelford then led the All Blacks on one of their great periods of domination, going unbeaten from 1987 to 1990.

    A competitive and skilful No 8, he led by example, whether driving over the advantage line from scrums or rucks, defending or standing up against real and imagined slights. His quickness to take the law into his own hands would have been harshly judged in rugby’s more recent years, but there was no question that he was one of the great forwards to play for New Zealand.

    27. Dave Loveridge (1978-1985 – 54 matches)
    Over a lengthy period between 1978 and 1985 Loveridge gave the All Blacks outstanding service but the undoubted highlight of his career came in the 1983 second Test against the British Lions at Athletic Park where he displayed every aspect of the halfback’s art, passing accurately, kicking effectively and running with judgement.

    Even the most exacting judges declared Loveridge had produced one of the greatest displays of all time. But even without this sublime performance Loveridge had already done enough to be ranked among the greatest New Zealand has had in this position.

    26. Sir Brian Lochore (1963-1971 – 68 matches)
    Made his All Black debut at No. 8 on the 1963/64 tour to the United Kingdom. Not wanted for the All Blacks in 1964, he was recalled for the 1965 series against South Africa and, as one of the best No. 8s New Zealand has produced, became an All Black fixture until he retired from international play after the 1970 tour to South Africa.

    One of New Zealand’s most successful captains, with just three losses. As a coach he was just as successful. Appointed a New Zealand selector in 1983 he became the national coach 1985-87 with his crowning achievement being the 1987 Rugby World Cup victory.

    25. Billy Stead (1903-1908 – 42 matches)
    One of the best to play in the first five-eighth position and also one of the sharpest early thinkers on the game. As such he had a deep influence long after he had stopped playing. Stead was vice captain of the celebrated 1905-06 Originals.

    He was the chief strategist and tactical mainstay and was worshipped by all of his team-mates, especially those backs on his outside who scored the vast majority of the 243 tries on that tour. In later years Stead continued as a referee, coach, selector, administrator and columnist. He was the manager and coach of the All Black sides in the first two Tests against the touring 1921 Springboks.

    24. Christian Cullen (1996-2002 – 60 matches)
    Other fullbacks starting with Fergie McCormick in the late 1960s had brought an increasing attacking dimension to the All Black fullback role. But none showed quite the flair and attacking potency that Cullen demonstrated, especially in his early years. Making his All Black debut in 1996, aged only 20, he made an instant impact.

    For the next few seasons Cullen was an automatic selection and while there may have been reservations about some of his unorthodox skills, where sometimes his positional play was astray, everyone agreed that he was a unique talent. Cullen’s ability as an astonishingly prolific tryscorer is reflected in the fact that in 60 All Black matches he scored 52 tries and scored in excess of 150 tries in all first-class rugby.

    23. Grant Fox (1984-1993 – 78 matches)
    One of the most potent scorers in rugby history. Fox’s incredible feats for Auckland through the 1984-86 seasons, in which his rate of scoring was phenomenal, meant his claims to be in the starting XV for the inaugural World Cup were irresistible.

    Fox in that tournament proved to be one of the All Blacks’ main weapons. His rate of scoring was astronomical and soon he had accumulated several All Black Test records, eclipsing even the mighty Don Clarke. For all his exploits Fox was often the target for criticism. Certainly he was not a player of great flair and he was never a dashing runner.

    Yet despite his lack of flamboyance, he was a highly effective Test player and it was significant that at all levels those on his outside were prolific scorers. In 78 matches for the All Blacks he scored 1067 points In first-class matches he scored a record 4112 points. He scored 932 points in Ranfurly Shield rugby, nearly three times more than anyone else.

    22. Sir John Kirwan (1984-1994 – 96 matches)
    From 1985 through to 1992, apart from when he was injured, Kirwan was pretty well an automatic All Black selection. At his peak, in the seasons between 1986 and 1988, Kirwan was magnificent and irresistible, exceeding in those years even his great Australian rival, David Campese.

    In 1987 he was a star of the All Blacks’ World Cup, his length of the field run for a try against Italy being an enduring image from that tournament. His greatest year, certainly in terms of tryscoring, was in 1988 when in five Tests he scored 10 tries. If not quite so dominant thereafter, Kirwan remained a world-class player for the rest of his career and when he finished with rugby in 1994 his 96 All Black matches had brought him 67 tries as well as 199 tries in first-class rugby, which are both New Zealand records.

    21. Zinzan Brooke (1987-1997 – 100 matches)
    One of the most skilful forwards to have played for the All Blacks and one of the most versatile and durable. In 1987 he established his reputation as a player with the build of a forward but the skills and flair of a back. But It was only relatively late in his career that he became the regular first-choice No 8 after being played on occasions there or either of the flanker positions.

    His 17 tries in tests were a world record for a forward. Many of his more than 150 tries in his first-class career came from pushover tries at the base of the dominant Auckland pack, but the nature of the tries don’t detract from the skill and competitiveness of one of the All Black giants of the 1990s.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • November 23rd 2012 @ 10:27am
      katzilla said | November 23rd 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      If ‘The Boot’ won the Halberg award in 1959, who won it the next year when Halberg won gold in the 5000m in Rome? Hehe I think it was called the NZ Sportsman award or something at the time, linked to some sports magazine.

      Still no Thorn! I’m getting nervous….

      • Roar Guru

        November 23rd 2012 @ 11:41am
        abnutta said | November 23rd 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        quite right mate, it was the award for NZ Sportsman of the year and later changed it’s name to the Halberg Award.

        ps. 1960 award winner was Sir Peter Snell.

    • November 23rd 2012 @ 1:37pm
      kippa said | November 23rd 2012 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

      Zinny ahead of Buck????

      • Roar Guru

        November 23rd 2012 @ 1:53pm
        abnutta said | November 23rd 2012 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

        Yeah, I’m pretty comfortable with that one.

        The tribute rankings in 2001 had Brooke 8 places in front of Shelford, so theres not much of a change this time around.

      • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:22pm
        Ra said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        hmmm have Grizz, Alan McNaughton, Fergie, Joe Karam already been? A lot of players in this mob that i would have thought would be higher up.

        • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:36pm
          Ra said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

          ok i’ve seen Fergie, pretty low down but he’s there

    • November 23rd 2012 @ 1:59pm
      shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

      Wayne Shelford: the only man that frightened Jake Heke (in the book version of Once Were Warriors).
      Zinzan Brooke: famously described by British rugby journo John Reason (father of Mark) after the 1986 HK 7s as “built like a Greek God, with the sidestep of Barry John”.
      Brad Thorne ahead of Shelford and Brooke, Whetton and Haden? Huge call. Not sure I would agree.

      • Roar Guru

        November 23rd 2012 @ 2:04pm
        abnutta said | November 23rd 2012 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

        Haha ” the only man that frightened Jake Heke” That’s brilliant 🙂

        • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:17pm
          Arthur Fonzarelli said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

          So Jake would have cooked Wayne some eggs if he asked him ?

          • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:51pm
            shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            Anything he wanted, I’d say.

          • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:51pm
            shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            Even Uncle Bulli would have give him a kiss.

      • November 24th 2012 @ 8:44am
        peterlala said | November 24th 2012 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Reminds me of an English journalist who said of heavyweight boxer Joe Bugner, “He has the looks of a Greek statue, but not the moves.”

    • November 23rd 2012 @ 2:22pm
      Lannash said | November 23rd 2012 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

      Leave us not forget Zinzan’s sense of humour and his prodigious drop goal!

    • November 23rd 2012 @ 2:50pm
      Toa said | November 23rd 2012 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

      Your ratings had me interested until Grant Fox name pop up…. IMO criticism was warranted.

      You mention point scoring machine, let it be known he score one try from 46 test matches. Apart from his goal kicking he offered nothing it was only his last 3 games he starting taking on the line furthermore he had no shoulders.

      To date all of your entries (pre super 14) have the ability to play in current climate as for Number 23 I dare say he would struggle in today’s environment.

      Grant Fox is no Dan Carter, Wayne Smith or Franco Boticia in fact in today’s currency he would do more harm than good….the last thing rugby union needs is to go back to the days of dull & boring football.

      • Roar Guru

        November 23rd 2012 @ 2:59pm
        abnutta said | November 23rd 2012 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

        In the 2001 Tribute rankings he came out in front of Andrew Mehrtens and second only to Mark Nicholls as a first five-eighths. Many matches both for Auckland and the All Blacks were won not just due to his goal kicking but also due to his tactical understanding. He had a surgical boot not just for goal but in general play keeping his pack on the front foot by plugging corners, and unnoticed facets like restarts, handling both passing and receiving were immaculate.

        I don’t think it a discredit to him that he scored so few tries himself when those playing outside him racked up often record try scoring feats at both provincial and test level.

        • November 23rd 2012 @ 3:25pm
          Johnno said | November 23rd 2012 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

          abnutta I found Grant Fox a very high quality five-eigth. His kicking, and passing game were immaculate, and he guided the AB’S around the park with authority . A top class five-eigths of the highest order. A class player.

          • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:17pm
            shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            Well said, Johnno.

      • November 23rd 2012 @ 3:44pm
        Jerry said | November 23rd 2012 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

        If he offered nothing but goal kicking, how come John Gallagher, Terry Wright, John Kirwan, Craig Green, Joe Stanley etc have so many test tries?

    • November 23rd 2012 @ 3:38pm
      Toa said | November 23rd 2012 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

      Obviously he had no running ability so it made sense for him to shift it or kick through……he played behind a super Auckland & All Black pack which would give any five eight confidence to boot the crap out of it remember those days ball in play average 15min – 20min a half out of that Grant had it for 10….. IMO the greatness players are multi dimensional & the have the ability to play in the modern era for me Grant Fox doesn’t have it.

      • November 23rd 2012 @ 4:19pm
        shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

        Toa, it’s about knowing when to pass and when to play for position. Fox was a brainy player and he knew his limitations.
        I can understand your objections if he was a purely kicking flyhalf that wouldnt let his team play, that he stifled his teams from maximising their potential. But the truth is he was instrumental in setting alight some of the best and most exciting AB and Auckland teams in living memory. Maybe it was all because of him rather than in spite of him?

        • November 23rd 2012 @ 6:54pm
          Toa said | November 23rd 2012 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

          I’m well versed on the strategic value a five eight has on a team…… IMO two of our greatest five eight’s from either code is stephen larkham & Darren locker who were well equipped with the complete package as I mention your fellow countryman Dan Carter & Frano Botica again fantastic generals……as the writer mention he cop heavy criticism obviously not because of his goal/tactical kicking….like I said the measure of a great player is one that can mix it up in any given era.

          • November 23rd 2012 @ 8:03pm
            Shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

            Like I said, his greatest asset was his brain. He and graham Henry were responsible for all those sensational backline moves and he made them happen. Would he have succeeded today? Why not? I would say most definitely. He is better tactically and with the boot than, say, morne steyn, butch James, jonny wilkinson, quade cooper, ronan o’gara, Rhys priestland, matt giteau, kurtley beale etc. the only ones in the past 2 decades I would say are more effective than Fox would be dan carter, Stephen larkham, and maybe Andrew mehrtens. So no 23 is probably about right.
            (Btw, I am not kiwi)

            • November 24th 2012 @ 10:27am
              Toa said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

              Shahsan, succeeded at what level?….. in the modern era for him to reproduce the same product behind a weaker forward pack and ordinary backline would only magnified his deficiencies therefore the criticism he face in the 80s would be ten fold in today’s currency……Mckenzie shifted QC to fullback due to defensive inconsistencies brought him up front on attack so he could play off the cuff, I don’t think you could hide Fox like that he had no running game & he certainly never took the line on…..Auckland & AB’s during Fox’s time were an unbelievable team their team chemistry was second to none & everyone went about there business like a well oil machine in turn made everyones job that much easier.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 3:08pm
                Shahsan said | November 24th 2012 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

                That’s a silly argument. Fox excelled in the teams he played in — you can’t ask for more than that. Would carter look good behind a weak pack? Probably not. Did he make a difference when the ABs pack was well beaten by France in 2007? He’s only played behind the Canterbury and New Zealand packs. Is he instrumental for their performance? Of course, just like fox was.
                And if you want to pluck a player from one era and surmise he can’t play in another, then what do you say about stan meads. At 6ft 2 he definitely wouldn’t be selected for any international side these days, let alone New Zealand.. And I reckon he is probably number one in this list.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 3:21pm
                Shahsan said | November 24th 2012 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

                That’s a silly argument. Fox excelled in the teams he played in — you can’t ask for more than that. Would carter look good behind a weak pack? Probably not. Did he make a difference when the ABs pack was well beaten by France in 2007? He’s only played behind the Canterbury and New Zealand packs. Is he instrumental for their performance? Of course, just like fox was.
                And if you want to pluck a player from one era and surmise he can’t play in another, then what do you say about Colin meads. At 6ft 2 he definitely wouldn’t be selected for any international side these days, let alone New Zealand.. And I reckon he is probably number one in this list.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 3:22pm
                Jerry said | November 24th 2012 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                Given the AB’s dominated possession and territory overwhelmingly, I don’t reckon you can say the AB pack was beaten in that 07 match.

                As for Carter –
                1 – the AB’s were leading when he went off injured.
                2 – if you want to see how good he can behind a beaten pack, have a look at the 08 Bledisloe match in Sydney.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 4:20pm
                Shahsan said | November 24th 2012 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

                Ok then, MOST no 10s can’t perform behind a weak pack. Good thing I wrote that carter was one of those I would rate above grant fox!

              • November 24th 2012 @ 7:22pm
                Toa said | November 24th 2012 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

                Shahsan,your only happy to provide an input responding by how you strongly recommend that GF is capable of playing along today finest now your claiming its a silly argument to which I pitch you a real time comparison with QC……I never seen the Mead brothers play however at 6ft 3 & from what I’m been told they were both structurally sound defensively & offensively furthermore extremely skilful with that resume why couldn’t they make it …..to date I’ve read the countdown with interest, all the names that I’m familiar with apart from Grant Fox could well and truly bounce through different time zones.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 8:53pm
                Jerry said | November 24th 2012 @ 8:53pm | ! Report

                Toa – Colin Meads was 1 inch shorter and about 13 kg lighter than Wyatt Crockett, a prop, is now. I don’t think even his most ardent supporters can argue he’d have been able to play as a test match lock in this day and age.

              • November 25th 2012 @ 10:16pm
                Shahsan said | November 25th 2012 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

                Toa, yes Colin Mead I’m sure was a great defender, was strong etc, but at barely 6ft 3, i dont know where you would put him today.

          • November 23rd 2012 @ 8:05pm
            Shahsan said | November 23rd 2012 @ 8:05pm | ! Report

            And until we see lockyear play rugby union I would leave him out of this discussion.

          • November 23rd 2012 @ 9:26pm
            atlas said | November 23rd 2012 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

            don’t know how you include Frano Botica in your comparisons.
            By the other standards, barely an All Black.
            Great player he may have been, but only played seven tests (6 start, 1 sub) for the All Blacks, two drop goals v France his only points.
            Greg Cooper, Kieran Crowley and (1) Fox were kickers for those 7 matches.

            • November 23rd 2012 @ 9:51pm
              atlas said | November 23rd 2012 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

              a note on that last game where Botica was sub, Fox the kicker that day (v Argentina) – apart from Fox’s 20 points with the boot, fullback Gallagher scored 3 tries, wing Kirwan 2 and wing Wright 1.
              Not saying Fox set them all up, but a general example of his backline management producing tries from the back 3.
              He was a player for that era/style of play, as indicated by Auckland and AB results.

            • November 24th 2012 @ 10:28am
              Toa said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:28am | ! Report

              Frano was a duel international, my comparisons relate to his overall skill level IMO his greatness is his ability to compete in any given era furthermore the fact he play test matches for Kiwis without any junior experience shows his class as the ultimate five eight….if he’s not a benchmark then I don’t know who is.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 4:48pm
                Jerry said | November 24th 2012 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

                So Matthew Ridge is now the benchmark for All Black fullbacks?

              • November 24th 2012 @ 7:24pm
                Toa said | November 24th 2012 @ 7:24pm | ! Report

                Andrew Leeds, Andrew Walker & yes Matthew Ridge, take your pick….you may want to name number 77 however I’ll leave that up to you.

              • November 24th 2012 @ 8:57pm
                Jerry said | November 24th 2012 @ 8:57pm | ! Report

                That’s a stupid standard – how about, when determining who was the best Rugby Union player for New Zealand, you limit the discussion to achievements in Rugby Union. And in Rugby Union, Frano Botica didn’t acheive anything close to what Grant Fox did.

                Or are you going to argue that Matthew Ridge was a better fullback than John Gallagher cause he made in League where Gallagher didn’t?

              • November 25th 2012 @ 8:26am
                Toa said | November 25th 2012 @ 8:26am | ! Report

                Jerry….the fact this is an Australian base web site, it reaches out to an international audience from all athletic disciplines.

                Australian generation ” Y & Z ” readers are only to happy to review such titles as ” 100 greatest All Blacks ever ” with keen interest. Your claims of stupid standard is the voice of ignorance. In my generation (Y) here in Australia through history the combination of both rugby codes allows us to gauge a better understanding of what a certain player can offer (hence my interest in this subject) & to my knowledge outside of Auckland that didn’t exist.

                As for fullbacks IMO Chris Latham surpasses the benchmark for the AB’s Christian Cullen again the rash of talented fullbacks from both codes is unbelievable, again debatable, however for mine those two tick all the boxes speed, defence, tactical kicking, game smarts, support play & player management.

                Correct me if I’m wrong wasn’t it illegal to play rugby league in certain areas outside of Auckland? Anyhow I enjoy Rugby Union more importantly listening & reading the history of the game both here and abroad. I’m not blinded by what talent the other codes have however for the matter of this forum and the All Black brand you kiwis have a ridiculous amount of talent….cant wait until abnutta announces his final ten.

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