Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks: Walter Little

Walter Little's remarkable career had a gloomy start.

The teenager damaged a cruciate ligament in his right knee playing a game with his mates while on holiday back in his home town of Tokoroa. The injury disturbed Little for the rest of his career but by the time his international career stopped he had claimed 50 test caps.

There was more trouble late in Little's career when he unwisely took a banned substance to combat persistent toothache and became the first New Zealander to return a positive drugs test earning two weeks on the sideline.

Between the dramas Little had a great test run with a mix of his natural Fijian flair, some strong tuition and far too many late nights socializing. After match carousing was just as important for Little whose career only crossed into the fully professional era for the last three years.

When he started, Little wanted to emulate the style of Harbour first five eighths Frano Botica and ended up alongside him at the union. Not long after the 19-year-old Little became the first All Black picked from the Glenfield club.

For several years Little marveled at Grant Fox's play and advice but found it tough to get on the same wavelength on the park. There were a few glitches but Little began to flourish again when his Harbour mate Frank Bunce transferred his allegiance to the All Blacks.

At the World Cup in '95 and the next year in South Africa, Little was all class and had a number of rollicking battles with Tim Horan, the immensely talented Wallaby.

Eventually the knee injury slowed Little but when he took up a late career chance in Japan he had matched the Harbour record with 145 appearances.

Statistics
Date of birth: 14 October 1969
Position: Second-five
Test debut: 16 June 1990 v Scotland at Dunedin
Final test: 1 August 1998 v Australia at Christchurch
Matches: 75
Tests: 50
Province: North Harbour
Test tries: 9
Test points: 44

- NZ Herald

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