Former All Black captains offer advice as Read takes helm

Former All Black captains talk about leading their country as new skipper Kieran Read takes control.
Former All Blacks captain Buck Shelford. Photo / Stephen Parker
Former All Blacks captain Buck Shelford. Photo / Stephen Parker

Sir Brian Lochore (1964-71)

"Kieran's situation is a hell of a lot different to mine. He has captained the All Blacks a few times, and I'm sure it wasn't a shock for him to be named as the next skipper. By comparison, I was fifth or sixth on the list of likely captains. He'll probably go in with more confidence than me. I'd had plenty of practice at club and provincial level, but a test was different.

"It was an incredible surprise, but I had a private chat with [coach] Fred Allen and he assured me he rated my ability to lead. We got on well. I was the shy country boy initially, but he gave me the confidence to say what I thought to him, to the selection panel, of which I was one, and certainly to the players. It was not one of those things where you say 'I'm captain and this is how I'm going to do it'. It takes time, but you've got to let the players know what you want.

"[Taking over from Wilson Whineray] I initially felt it was best to lead from the front with more action than words.

You could say as time went on it was more words than actions, but perhaps that's not the best way of putting it ... [chuckles]."

Sir Brian Lochore (R) with current All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty
Sir Brian Lochore (R) with current All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty

Sean Fitzpatrick (1986-97)

"The first question you're faced with is: 'am I good enough?'

"1992 was a strange time in New Zealand rugby. We'd had a clean out post-World Cup, it was the rugby union's centenary year, I was the captain of this great establishment playing against a World XV, and we lost first up. Then I had to make a speech - it was one of my greatest fears - we had about six new caps and I forgot some of the guys' names.

"Around that time, John Sturgeon, our manager, knocked on my door. He came in, a man from the West Coast coal mines, and said 'Fitzy, you're not faring too well, are you?' I said 'Sturgey, I'm bloody hating it' and he said 'just forget about it, all you need to do is be the best player on that field and they'll follow you.' That was the best piece of advice I ever got.

Former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick. Photo / Getty
Former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick. Photo / Getty

"I went to see Andy Dalton as a way of seeking out great All Black captains. He was working in Penrose behind a big, palatial desk. I walked in and he was sitting there in a suit and tie. I had such admiration for him after what he did in 1987 [after getting injured before the World Cup and staying to mentor the squad]. I said 'Andy, can you please help me to know what being a great All Black captain's all about.' He looked at me, almost with disdain, and said 'you ARE the All Black captain, now get out of my office and go and do the job.' I thought, 'hell'.

"In our day you were thrown in the deep end but Kieran, he's the best No 8 in the world, he's established and is already a good leader. They do that so much better now [in the All Blacks]. Players are inducted well into the culture, and have great people around them."

Reuben Thorne (1999-2007)

"You have to be yourself and genuine otherwise people will see through you. It's not so much a matter of change for the sake of it, but it's being true to yourself. There is certainly pressure that comes with it, but that's something every All Black feels anyway, whether you're a captain or not. You want to uphold those traditions and stature of being an All Black. Being captain is a step up again, it's an extension of what you're already doing, really. There is an increased spotlight. You have to front all the media; there are extra sponsorship commitments. All the extra things that go on around the team these days, the captain is heavily involved in it, including planning and leadership and decision-making; all the off-field stuff. I've never been a great public speaker, I've never enjoyed it, but it's part of the role and you just have to deal with it.

"It changed my life in terms of public recognition, and when you're under pressure at times you certainly learn about yourself, how to cope with different situations, so ... it certainly taught me a few things.

Reuben Thorne. Photo / Getty
Reuben Thorne. Photo / Getty

"Kieran has to keep doing what he's been doing. He's been in that leadership role, he was Richie's right-hand man up to this point so he's very experienced and knows how it all works. He's just got to keep playing well, first and foremost, and the rest of it will flow from there."

Buck Shelford (1986-90)

"It was in Japan after we won the 1987 World Cup when David Kirk finished. It was a small tour and we always knew we were going to win but we had to make sure we did not drop our standards against a lesser nation. There's always a danger if you under-estimate a side that will come back to bite you so that was the biggest thing about captaining the team on that tour. The only different thing for me was tossing the coin, running out first and making a few decisions. It was special but I didn't think about that at the time, I was too busy thinking about the rugby we wanted to play in the manner we had been playing for the previous few years.

"My idea of captaincy when you are working with the best players in New Zealand was to use their ability because they were all leaders in their own right. I made choices about shots at goal and Foxy never turned those down because he wanted the points. That was the way we played then. Sometimes I'd overrule on the pattern and keep the ball in the forwards but Foxy would be happy because he would get the ball on the front foot. These days teams go side to side far more and leave it to one guy to get the break where we went forward, pick and go and tried to get behind them there.

"Kieran should try not to let the captaincy overtake the player he is. He might be given the mantle of captaincy but he still has to perform as well so don't let the extra responsibility of captaincy become a burden."

- NZ Herald

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