Much decorated hooker Keven Mealamu shows his steel on the paddock and his gentleness off it

An enduring question has followed Keven Mealamu's decorated rugby career.

How can such a mild-mannered religious man who dotes on his family, works for charities and illustrates children's books, go about his day job in the ferocious front row contests in rugby.

When you ask Mealamu to reconcile the apparent contradiction he delivers his ready smile, shrug of the shoulders and the "it's just what I do" sort of explanation he has taken throughout his remarkable career.

The smile is a significant ruse. It indicates the considerate side of Mealamu's nature and the bloke who is just one of the clan, no more no less when he gathers for extended family functions.

Advertisement

Digging for any dirt on Mealamu is wasted effort, the man may have filled a teammate's pockets with broken eggshells or added shoulder pads to a backs jersey but that might be it.

He is a team man, a family man, a caring gentle man. He likes to party, he has a great sense of mischief but has boundaries just as he does on the rugby field.

Anyone who mistakes that for softness on the park makes a massive lapse.

Mealamu may not instigate a quarrel but he knows how to deal with one.

His endurance in the game is built on a mental core which dispenses with any reverse gear. For Mealamu, rugby is a contest of unremitting will from the time he faces up to the first lineout throw, sets a scrum on his goal line, eyes a cleanout or fastens on to a loose possession.

Every metre on the park is a zone in which to impress, every fibre in his compact frame concentrates on making progress in his physical and mental tasks which supplement the team culture.

Watch: All Blacks profiles: Keven Mealamu