Flanker Michael Jones was a little old to be the son that his fellow All Black Mike Burgoyne never had but he'd formed such a strong relationship with him and his family, he considered himself to be a little brother.
And it was first and foremost as a friend that Jones farewelled Burgoyne today at one of the biggest funerals ever seen in Kaitaia.
Jones - 'The Iceman' - told the congregation it was a privilege to have been asked to deliver the eulogy for a man whose life had been well lived, and and honour to have been so accepted by his family.
As a West Auckland boy, dreaming, like so many others, of one day wearing the "black jersey," he had heard of North Auckland loosie Mike Burgoyne, his uncles declaring him to be "the man," better even than Laly Haddon.
"Sorry to any Haddons who are here," he added.
But while they had shared the highest achievements in rugby, more than anything Burgoyne had become a friend.
Educated at Kaingaroa Primary School and Kaitaia College, Burgoyne began his working life with the Lifebuoy Tyre Company, followed by stints driving with the NCCA (with his father George), Allied Work Force, WINZ, and finally selling cars, the last 11 years with Kaitaia Mitsubishi franchise holders Brian and Rosemary Archibald.
He had also briefly driven the Kaingaroa School bus, which Mr Jones suspected had over that short time been the cleanest bus in the Far North.
Mike had been so fastidious, he said, that a visit to the Jones home was always preceded by frantic cleaning and, when he travelled to Kaitaia, he parked his car well away so he would not see the mess inside it.
Family had been very important to Mike Burgoyne - he played seven games for the All Blacks in 1979, but declared himself unavailable in 1980 so he could spend more time with his wife Carolyn and their daughters.
Mike and Carolyn, he added, had met at a Pirates RFC function in Kaitaia. Mike was in the car that took Carolyn home, and but didn't do especially well, his attempted "sneaky kiss" being rewarded with a slap across the face.
They had been a couple for 46 years, however, and husband and wife for 43.
"It is the aroha here today, his beautiful wife and beautiful family, that is his biggest legacy," he concluded.
Kaitaia businessman Eric Shackleton had also become firm friends with Mike, and had liked and respected him immensely.
"The only problem was that every time I saw him he tried to sell me one of Archie's cars," he said - Mr Jones also commented on his skill as a salesman, saying he had never seen so many Mitsubishis at one marae as he had at Kareponia over recent days.
"He will be irreplaceable. I am going to miss him," Mr Shackleton added.
Mr Archibald was another who commented on Mike's constant pursuit of perfection in everything he did - "When you drive past the house I'm sure you can see the string he used when he cut the hedge," he said - and his determination to do the best job possible.
"Anyone who bought a car off him probably he made them feel special. You were special to him. So was the next customer," he said.
"It didn't matter if you were in a suit or gumboots covered in cow manure."
And he was loved, by his family, his friends, and an entire community.
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