In praise of All Blacks and other musings

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru


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    There is a significance to 1986 marking the last time the Wallabies won at Eden Park, Auckland.

    Back when I was a young lad, from the third Test of 1978 to the third Test of 1986, the Wallabies matched the All Blacks win for win (eight apiece).

    It was one of those rarest periods when we could say the Wallabies were the equal of the All Blacks.

    Significantly, the Wallabies’ last two wins at Eden Park (1978 and ’86) book-ended this golden era. I had grudging respect for the black jersey, but there wasn’t much love.

    The All Blacks played a traditional, bustling, quick ensemble style of rugby, but we Aussies had all the flair and pizzazz. We played the ‘real’ rugby. Or so may of us Aussie fans thought.

    Today, my respect for the All Blacks knows no bounds. I might even be excused for loving everything the All Blacks stand for, both in rugby and in society.

    I sometimes cop derision on The Roar for adhering to ‘old fashioned’ values like history and tradition. Some Roarers say they have no time for history and tradition.

    I don’t mind progress as long as it adds value. For example, I reckon the Rugby Championship is a wonderful addition to the international calendar. However, I abhor changes motivated purely by marketing and money, and there are too many of these.

    I’ll give you two words why history and tradition matter: All Blacks.

    When the latest All Blacks debutante Nehe Milner-Skudder pulled on the black jersey for the first time, its significant would have seeped through every pore in his body, penetrating through to his soul.

    If he was a dickhead, he wouldn’t have lasted very long. Either he change or someone else of better character and equal ability would quickly replace him.

    Of course, that’s not to say the All Blacks haven’t had their less savoury characters in their history. Often an All Blacks maxim was: ‘Get your retaliation in first’.

    Many a talented opposition player who was perceived as a threat quickly found themselves with a bloody nose, or stud-raked back. Occasionally worse. But generally the All Blacks have an unbroken history of outstanding rugby players and generally outstanding human beings.

    When you pull on that black jersey, you don’t have the luxury of taking it easy, of choosing when you want to perform or just cruise.

    The bar of performance was set very high, right from the get-go in 1903 against the Wallabies, and set even higher on the 1905-06 tour of Britain, Ireland and France.

    Since then almost every aspiring All Black has felt the weight of responsibility, of the history and tradition of the jersey, to live up to the high standard of their forebears.

    Stop for a moment and contemplate this.

    The only changes to rugby league when it split from rugby union in 1895 and up to 1905, was to eliminate lineouts in 1897, which were replaced with a punt kick and to reduce all kicks at goal to two points.

    When the league folk saw the All Blacks play in Britain in 1905-06, it was a revelation. A literal game-changer.

    In 1906, the league reduced players from 15 to 13 (flankers removed) and introduced the ‘play the ball’ rule. These two significant changes in rugby league were based on the way the All Blacks played their rugby union.

    Think about this. How many sports can say they completely changed the way another sport was played? I cannot bring one other example immediately to my mind. What happened in 1905-06 was truly extraordinary.

    Many Kiwis would like to think they exhibit the qualities of the All Blacks. But the All Blacks are unique to New Zealand society, not necessarily representative of all their society.

    Other national teams such as the Black Caps (cricket), Kiwis (rugby league), All Whites (football), Black Sticks (hockey), Tall Blacks (basketball) and Silver Ferns (netball) have enjoyed spectacular moments of success here and there.

    But none of them have enjoyed the continual phenomenal success of the All Blacks.

    If you get your history and tradition right at the beginning, it’s significance resonates through the ages.

    Australians can sense and identify with the proud history of our baggy greens Test cricket team. As a nation, we proudly hold up the diggers who fought at Gallipoli and in France during World War I as embodying the qualities of courage and character we like to think all Australians possess.

    But as with the All Blacks to New Zealand, the legend of the digger is not indicative of all Australians, but only a section of it. But it is a history and tradition we ought to aspire towards, all the same.

    The current All Blacks are probably the greatest rugby team in history.

    In the past four years, since winning the World Cup in 2011, they have played 47 Tests, for 42 wins, two draws and only three losses. Their win ratio percentage is 90.43 per cent.

    The overall win ratio of the All Blacks, from 1903 to the present, is 78.24 per cent.

    Richie McCaw is arguably the greatest rugby player in history, with a winning ratio of 89.36. Dan Carter is arguably the greatest flyhalf in history, with a winning ratio of 89.04. Both men are not only great players, but outstanding individuals of character and integrity.

    Irrespective of which country you come from, you should enjoy watching this team while you can. Very shortly, half this team will be gone, retired.

    Finally, I noticed something else last night that had slipped my notice previously. Every All Black wore black boots. Once upon a time every player in every rugby team wore black boots.

    By contrast, the Wallabies players featured lime green, lime yellow, orange, red, white as well as some of the obligatory black boots.

    The Wallabies aren’t obligated to play in black only boots, but perhaps they might consider all playing in the same colour.

    It may be a minor thing, but just another example of how seriously the All Blacks respect their history and tradition.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (95)

    • August 17th 2015 @ 5:37am
      Pita said | August 17th 2015 @ 5:37am | ! Report

      Grand read Sheek Sir. As you point out the abs are more than just the most successful rugby team ever.

      The unity and traditions the abs have filter through to NZ society in unifying a country of different races, religions and backgrounds. We have issues like every other country, but in rugby we have a common interest that strengthens bonds. The haka, the bilingual anthem and the multi-ethnic player make up does wonders to NZs internal relations.

    • August 17th 2015 @ 5:42am
      mania said | August 17th 2015 @ 5:42am | ! Report

      nice article sheek. i dont think it will go down well tho. the ABs history whilst central to the AB’s and aspiring kiwi’s means nohting to anyone else. its hard to explain what the ABs mean to kiwi’s but i think youve nailed it on the head.

      better people make better ABs

    • August 17th 2015 @ 5:45am
      ohtani's jacket said | August 17th 2015 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      To be honest, sheek, the black boots are really just part of an Adidas marketing campaign in World Cup year. They’re designed to match the All Blacks’ blackest jersey ever as part of Adidas’ “Force of Black” promotion. I kind of prefer the coloured boots myself.

      • August 17th 2015 @ 6:31am
        Chuck said | August 17th 2015 @ 6:31am | ! Report

        I don’t care what colour boots they wear as long they keep all black values , integrity on and off the field
        Great read Sheek
        Who cares if it’s a marketing tool adios used , as long it is acceptable t

        • August 17th 2015 @ 6:58am
          ohtani's jacket said | August 17th 2015 @ 6:58am | ! Report

          I don’t think their boots have anything to do with values or integrity as Sheek was somewhat implying.

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2015 @ 8:37am
            sheek said | August 17th 2015 @ 8:37am | ! Report


            Yes, obviously there’s much more to values & integrity than having everyone wearing black boots.

            But visually, it provides a wonderful, immediate example of ‘unity of purpose’, of everyone being united in the same cause.

            That’s the whole purpose of colours & uniforms, it signifies we’re the ONE team.

            In this case, right down to the black boots.

            • Roar Guru

              August 17th 2015 @ 11:35am
              taylorman said | August 17th 2015 @ 11:35am | ! Report

              That’s true but man Eden park was looking very dark and gloomy with all that Black going on… I can see why sides haven’t won there for a while… 🙁

              • August 17th 2015 @ 11:57am
                Gonzo said | August 17th 2015 @ 11:57am | ! Report

                As a Wellington native now living in Australia, I call Eden Park, Mt Doom to all my Wallaby supporting friends.

              • Roar Guru

                August 17th 2015 @ 12:42pm
                sheek said | August 17th 2015 @ 12:42pm | ! Report


                Mt Doom, eh. Images of Lord of the Rings rushing through my head.

              • August 17th 2015 @ 5:06pm
                Gonzo said | August 17th 2015 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

                Sheek, that imagery is intentional!

            • August 17th 2015 @ 11:58am
              Gonzo said | August 17th 2015 @ 11:58am | ! Report

              I must admit, after the Nonu brouhaha, I had to look twice at his feet because I thought his neon yellow boots had come loose. You know you’re in the future when wearing black boots is considered odd.

          • August 17th 2015 @ 12:45pm
            Jokerman said | August 17th 2015 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            I don’t feel it’s a marketing ploy. All black with their boots is symbolic to being all together. I’m sure it was McCaw who was not keen for the forwards to wear coloured boots a while back. Backs can be flash so perhaps there was a bit of give there. Sure Adidas are happy with the colour but they don’t dictate to the All Blacks. You can adhere to the commercial side and deliver with your own integrity. They don’t have to be exclusive, and they weren’t here.

            • August 17th 2015 @ 3:03pm
              Old Bugger said | August 17th 2015 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

              I agree J-man.

              Its a bromance thing to connect with history, which in all respects, is everything that has been and always will be “All Black…” with the jersey, shorts, socks and boots. Could be just my long-in-the-tooth attitude too coz throughout my playing career, it was just black boots, club socks, white shorts and of course, me club jersey.

              Funny how wearing black boots today, can cause so much anxiety, amongst roarers when for most of rugby’s history in NZ, it was the only boot colour, on the paddock.

              • Roar Guru

                August 17th 2015 @ 3:13pm
                Ralph said | August 17th 2015 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

                Being old means having seen fashions come and fashions go.

                Being old means seeing that few things last and valuing that which does.

              • August 17th 2015 @ 4:15pm
                Old Bugger said | August 17th 2015 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

                Well whatever it is and I’m not disputing you, I just hope it makes the boys feel good….don’t want them to get all cluttered upstairs, about all of this. Its bad enough when poor Maa has to worry about what colour foundation and make-up he has to use, to match his fashionable hand-bag. He’s never gonna live down Tana’s comments, is he…??

              • Roar Guru

                August 17th 2015 @ 4:20pm
                Ralph said | August 17th 2015 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

                ha ha ha ha – I hope not.

        • August 17th 2015 @ 9:38pm
          Ra said | August 17th 2015 @ 9:38pm | ! Report

          I don’t care what colour boots they wear so long as they are black

      • Roar Rookie

        August 17th 2015 @ 1:39pm
        Shane D said | August 17th 2015 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        I can recall getting my first pair of boots that were not black with white stripes. Adidas were branching out a little & I picked up a black pair that had lime green & fluro Orange highlights on the stripes.
        They lasted one game as every ruck I ended up in my boots were ruthlessly targeted by every forward involved, including my own pack! I ended the game with a lovely pair of Adidas shredded sandals.
        I was back to get a black pair with white stripes on the Monday.

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2015 @ 3:14pm
          Ralph said | August 17th 2015 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

          Perfect.., LOL.

      • August 17th 2015 @ 9:16pm
        Anto said | August 17th 2015 @ 9:16pm | ! Report


    • August 17th 2015 @ 7:06am
      Kiwi in US said | August 17th 2015 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Enjoyable read. Thankyou. I was 10 in 1978 and remember that period well. It’s amazing how it was an amateur code for so long, and is now a good little earner for the NZRFU due to the brand and consistency. The only All Black rugby jerseys I ever saw at that age were real ones, worn by All Blacks. Yet by the early 1990’s while being in the UK, there started to appear all black jerseys as casual wear. It almost seemed sacrosanct. I thought that only those who earned one should have it or been given it from someone who earned it. And then be put in a glass case on the wall. How things have changed.

      • August 17th 2015 @ 8:25am
        wardad said | August 17th 2015 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        There are still many who wont wear them and thats fair enough.But for some like me I only wear it when I go to watch them play ,I reckon the sight of large numbers of black in the crowds ok too as are ABs T-shirts and the like for casual wear .
        And had I one of those jumpers in a case if the house caught fire it would be family first jumper next ! { I do have one thats signed but its not a match jumper so doesnt count ]

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2015 @ 10:40am
          Lindsay Amner said | August 17th 2015 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          How can you call yourself an All Black fan?!?!?! Family should be trampled underfoot as you rush to save your All Black jersey!

        • August 17th 2015 @ 1:00pm
          Kiwi in US said | August 17th 2015 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

          I have lived off shore now for 20 plus years and I get given all black gear on occasion. A black beanie with a silver fern is good. I just wouldn’t feel right wearing a jersey but don’t mind folks that do. I was very excited to get a Wanganui jersey, several years ago and wear that. However to see a stadium blacked out is pretty awesome. I saw the ABs play in Chicago last year and it was a record crowd for a rugby match in the US. Folks thought that they couldn’t fill the stadium but they did. Many Americans wore black as well. That is where the NZRFU has such an awesome brand. If you can get folks buying the gear, it cashflows nicely. Not only that, NZ has the other teams like the Maori All Blacks they can send overseas and build the brand further. During this period of building the apparel sales of the brand (last 15 years or so) I have noticed the use of the word “fan” being used where once we said “supporter”. I think I am a “rugby supporter” not a “Rugby Fan”. I support rugby, but am not a fan. I think as a rugby supporter, I applaud good play by both sides, and ultimately give credit where it is due. But as a supporter I read almost everything on the roar. Sometimes to the point of being fanatical. So maybe I’m a closet fan.

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2015 @ 1:17pm
            Machooka said | August 17th 2015 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

            @ Kiwis

            Funny… well sort of… your comment about the word ‘fan’ as I totally agree with you.
            I have always used the word ‘supporter’… we should ALL be Rugby supporters, and not fans.
            For mine… fans are things that blow hot air around. And while my opinions on certain matters pertaining to Rugby may be regarded as ‘hot air’, from time to time, I’m still a supporter of the game.

            Hey, aside to this discussion, are you an NBA fan 🙂 ?

            The reason I ask is that the San Antonio Spurs are the closest thing to the All Blacks… in their ethos, their dress, the players, and especially their coaching staff, led by Pop.
            I’m just curious… especially as you’re been State side for some time.

            • Roar Guru

              August 17th 2015 @ 1:21pm
              Machooka said | August 17th 2015 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

              @ Kiwi in Us

              Apologies with your name… I couldn’t edit my comment, and have got no idea how I got ‘Kiwis’. I’m having a shameful day with the old key-board !?

              • August 17th 2015 @ 2:25pm
                Kiwi in US said | August 17th 2015 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

                Hello Machooka, I go through phases of which sport I follow over here, which is usually geared around what my kids are playing. Just don’t have time to follow much more than rugby in detail. It’s been great for me to read the roar. Also as a family we do a lot of sport ourselves. Sort of wanted to stay in shape, for myself but also as an ambassador for NZ to be kind of healthy looking. I’ve fallen for baseball and my boys have excellent arms. So much of baseball is similar to cricket. Hitting and throwing. It is an awesome game where a kid can still bleed or get banged up. I think it’s a right of passage for kids to experience, competition and even injury and pain, in a sporting context. Baseball has a high skill factor to execute correctly. To pit yourself against your peers and see what you are made of. To grow into being a leader and keep a cool head, and perhaps experience a clutch moment, where you can change the outcome of a game as a team. But you want to talk about being a fan or a supporter, try being a parent . The boys play, basketball, baseball, cross country and football (gridiron). We have season passes to a local ski field as well.

              • Roar Guru

                August 17th 2015 @ 5:52pm
                Machooka said | August 17th 2015 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

                Thanks @ Kiwi in US for your reply… and yep, when you’ve got kids there’s only so much you can do.
                Hence, it’s usually the kids that set the agenda for what we parents are gonna do !

                As to your comments on… ‘fan or a supporter, try being a parent.’

                Well, I’ve now graduated, not that I had any choice, to the status of g’parent.
                Man what a rub that is… I mean, I don’t mind to having the equivalent of a forward pack in g’children numbers, but talk about being the ultimate supporter.
                Infact, my darling wife is the no.1 ticket holder for the team !

                All the best for the future with your tribe/ team… and when ‘they’ get to ‘that’ age please make sure they have a TV in the bedroom.
                In the end it’s a lot bloody cheaper… maybe not as much fun… but definitely cheaper in the end 🙂
                So it comes as no surprise that my mob call me… Grumps !

      • Columnist

        August 17th 2015 @ 9:46am
        Geoff Parkes said | August 17th 2015 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Kiwi, wardad, I’m in the camp who have never worn one and never will. I don’t mind that other people do, but it just wouldn’t feel right to me. And of course the guys who have earned them via AB selection, well I doubt they wear them either.

        Thanks Sheek, a rousing piece. I’m guessing you would have been as aghast as I was to see the Springboks in all-white yesterday?

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2015 @ 10:43am
          Lindsay Amner said | August 17th 2015 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          Yes I found that Springbok strip bizarre. What possible reason could there be for going from your traditional green jersy which could not possibly clash with blue and white, to a jersey that almost clashed? Can someone enlighten me?

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2015 @ 12:07pm
          sheek said | August 17th 2015 @ 12:07pm | ! Report


          I agree with this, although many people obviously don’t.

          Players who make their national team, or national club side, have earned the right to that jersey.

          I don’t subscribe that everyone else can wear replicas. T-shirts, scarves, pullovers, caps, flags, etc, sure, but not jerseys.

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2015 @ 2:30pm
            The Bush said | August 17th 2015 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

            It’s interesting how national jersey’s seem to be okay, presumably because club jersey-wearing is such a thing, whilst no one ever, ever wears a replica Baggy Green.

          • August 17th 2015 @ 9:40pm
            Ra said | August 17th 2015 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

            A good read Sheek, well done !!

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2015 @ 8:00pm
          Diggercane said | August 17th 2015 @ 8:00pm | ! Report

          Its a funny thing Allanthus. Was drilled into me by my Father that certain things should be earned. I wont wear jerseys either, have been given them but seems wrong. I don’t mind the casual polo shirts to be fair and beanies and scarves I wear but not the actual Rugby tops. The missus doesn’t understand why I will wear my ratty old club jersey but not the pristine AB and other tops.

          I can remember asking to borrow a tie from my Father and being told to take them off for picking a couple out that had meaning for one reason or another. They were the only nice ones! 😉

          Thanks Sheek, enjoyed the read.

          • August 17th 2015 @ 8:20pm
            riddler said | August 17th 2015 @ 8:20pm | ! Report

            spot on digger et al.. same camp..

            although never came from my old man.. was just a way of life and nobody wore a jersey that they hadn’t earned and then anybody who played rep level never wore their jersey again.. usually saved for the glory room wall!!

            training gear, socks, trackie etc always used and lasted like those items last.. opposition jerseys had swapped were always good for training.. remember a great moment when someone who had swapped his jersey for a crusher cleal state of origin jersey wore it to training.. great memories, great times!

            my missus here (who knows nothing about rugby) says the same though, why not put on the green and gold jersey when you go watch the games.. tried explaining but just gets lost in translation..

    • August 17th 2015 @ 8:20am
      Tissot Time said | August 17th 2015 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Thanks Sheek.

    • August 17th 2015 @ 8:42am
      Tyrone said | August 17th 2015 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      NFL changed a lot from rugby union.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.