Rieko Ioane to extend All Blacks record for club and school

By Campbell Burnes

Rieko Ioane makes a tackle while playing for Ponsonby. Photosport
Rieko Ioane makes a tackle while playing for Ponsonby. Photosport

When Rieko Ioane runs onto the Stadio Olimpico pitch some time after 4am on Sunday morning he will become the 45th All Black out of the famous Ponsonby club and the 52nd out of Auckland Grammar School.

Both are records for club and school All Blacks.

The 19-year-old Ioane follows in the footsteps off 44 other Ponies men, including Sunday's starting lock Patrick Tuipulotu, the 44th national rep out of the 142-year-old Auckland club.

Ioane also follows in the footsteps of some classy threequarters who made the All Blacks out of Ponsonby. Consider Eric Boggs, Malcolm Dick, Bryan 'Beegee' Williams, Va'aiga Tuigamala, Craig Innes and Joe and Jeremy Stanley.

Ioane's long-awaited debut almost came in August when he was called into the All Blacks squad to face Australia in Wellington, but he did not make the match-day squad.

Now, after playing for the Maori All Blacks in their decisive win over the USA Eagles in Chicago last weekend, Ioane will get his opportunity off the bench, either at centre or on the wing.

He looked destined for the top when he left Auckland Grammar at the end of 2014, wowing the crowds, at 17, with the All Blacks Sevens and averaging two tries a match in his limited but telling appearances for Ponsonby.

"He has been earmarked for some time," says Ponsonby life member and another All Black at 19, 'Beegee' Williams. "He had a promising junior career, and captained NZ Schools. It's great to see him come through. He's a talented kid and he's a good kid. As a club, we're absolutely rapt for him and his parents."

Such was Ioane's busy schedule in 2016 that he did not play a match for the Ponsonby premiers, but his link to the club is strong and nigh on unbreakable and he was seen sideline in support at Western Springs Stadium on occasion. His mother Sandra is now the club manager, while father Eddie - a former Manu Samoa lock - is a constant presence at Ponsonby in support roles.

Of course, his brother Akira, another Ponies man, on tour with the Maori, is tipped to make the All Blacks sooner rather than later, as is loose forward Blake Gibson, when he can shrug off his bad luck with injury.

When Ioane junior's full All Blacks status is confirmed, it will see Ponsonby move past Otago University into first place on the overall list. This is the first time that has happened, though there has been some doubt over the status of some players in the past.

Ponsonby men such as, for example, Keith Nelson and the late Lin Colling and Noel Bowden, were not technically All Blacks out of the Ponsonby club. Nelson, a Ponsonby life member, first made the All Blacks out of Otago University, while Colling from Otago's Pirates club and Bowden from the New Plymouth HSOB club.

It needed some assiduous work from Ponsonby club historian Paul Neazor to ensure the numbers were correct as far as can be ascertained.

The last of Otago University's 44 All Blacks was Adam Thomson at Rugby World Cup 2011.

Ioane will be All Black No 52 out of Auckland Grammar, extending the national record. No 51 was Benson Stanley in 2010.

- NZ Herald

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