Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Friend not the best example

Nathan Friend. Photo / Getty Images
Nathan Friend. Photo / Getty Images

There have been and always will be stories of players creating folklore within a club - legends which live long after the player has retired.

Sometimes the story defines a player but can also portray a dimension which contradicts the actual qualities a player possesses.

In the case of Nathan Friend, I hope his feat of surviving almost the full 80 minutes playing with a broken jaw does not become folklore.

With no intention of trying to demean what he accomplished, we cannot have our youth looking to emulate such a feat. Hence we cannot glorify this as a quality we need to look for in a player.

There is no question it is not in the interest of young players to try to be like the idols they see on television in instances like this.

The dangers of playing on with injuries, especially injuries to the head, needs to be highlighted as dangerous and not to be adored.

Not that I think Nathan Friend was looking to be seen as "tough" because he is a competitor and those like him are indeed tough.

I met Nathan four years ago when I attended a number of Titans training sessions while on holiday and following my son's school rugby trip to the Gold Coast.

My good friend Trevor Gillmeister is the defensive co-ordinator at the club and I knew John Cartwright as a player and then while he was assistant coach to Ricky Stuart at the Roosters.

I watched a diminutive but spirited hooker who did not show fear or back away from the more bulky and aggressive forwards when it came to combative drills, including the Brazilian martial arts sessions.

I was amazed at his dogged determination and resilience by more than holding his own in confrontational workouts.

I was highly impressed with his attitude and enthusiastically awaited his arrival to the Warriors, knowing what many fans and media didn't - he would bring more than just his playing ability.

I stress again that by playing on after breaking his jaw, Nathan Friend did what a lot of players cannot do.

When Dean Bell recruited this player, I'm sure he saw what you want in players; the ability to fight through pain, a characteristic that Dean himself possessed.

Some cannot play with pain and that is not a criticism, they just can't do it. But there are some players who can and, when situations arise as that of Nathan against the Broncos, they assess the situation and make a judgement call based on their ability to carry on.

He made that call without the thought of being labelled a hero; it's just what some players do.

Folklore can have a humorous side as depicted by the tale of the great Johnny Raper, the St George, New South Wales and Australian lock forward. While his playing exploits are well documented, while on a UK tour during the 1960s, he celebrated a win by absorbing many a pint of a local brew.

He then proceeded to imitate the English upper class by walking through the streets of Ilkley, a picturesque Yorkshire town, with nothing on but just a bowler hat and a walking stick. There is a staged photo of Johnny Raper to prove the story's authenticity but I'm sorry to say that I do not possess one of Dean Bell and his exploits on tour.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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