Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks: Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson was a sporting gift to New Zealand who played international cricket and rugby as a teenager and then starred in his biggest test at the forefront of the establishment's battle with WRC to control the professional game.

The All Black jersey stood for everything Wilson admired and he did not want to ditch all that tradition for barrow loads of money promised by an unproven competitor.

His career spanned nearly eight years with some time at fullback but the bulk of it on the wing. His try-scoring strike rate was high with his best work coming through the 95-98 period when his breadth of play proved a menace for any opponent.

He first tripped off to Europe with the All Blacks in 1993 and soon had the Goldie nickname. The kid had talent, masses of it but he was living in a rarified atmosphere. He rose even higher with three tries and a sideline conversion on his All Blacks debut. What couldn't the southern boy do?

Injuries placed him behind the kicking tee for the next test at Twickenham but his radar went on the blink. The All Blacks lost, Wilson was distressed, his sporting world had cracked.

His next test in Sydney was even more anguished when he beat several men and as he dived for the corner and the winning try with the Wallabies, George Gregan knocked the ball from his grasp in a desperate tackle.

Then there was the trauma of the food poisoning at the World Cup final when Wilson was one of the most severely affected. The only way was up and Wilson's production earned him accolades from new coach John Hart as the finest all round player in the game.

Flair, expertise and confidence oozed through Wilson's veins in his golden patch of form.

Statistics
Date of birth: 24 October 1973
Position: Right wing
Matches: 71
Tests: 60
Test debut: 20 November 1993 v Scotland, Edinburgh
Last test: 25 August 2001 v South Africa, Auckland
Province: Otago
Franchise: Highlanders
Test tries: 44
Test points: 234

- NZ Herald

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