Scenes of a packed house at Levin Domain and shots of Paekākāriki Domain by the sea feature prominently in a new documentary on former All Black Christian Cullen, which screens on free-to-air television next week.
Christian Cullen: A Tribute to Greatness , showing on Prime TV on Monday night, features many clips of Levin Domain and the huge crowds the Horowhenua team of that era drew to the ground.
The documentary harks back to Cullen's early life in Paekākāriki and showcases the stamp he made on Super Rugby in an era that saw the birth of professional rugby in New Zealand.
The documentary was another top offering from producer Bevan Sanson, a former journalist at Horowhenua Chronicle , and also a former Horowhenua rugby representative who had the distinction of playing with his subject.
Sanson played alongside Cullen in the 1994 Horowhenua team that contested the second division that season, while he also remembered playing against him when Cullen joined Manawatū the following year.
The highlight reels of his tries showed just what a potent force Cullen was. He would become widely known as "The Paekākāriki Express", among other nicknames given to him by former teammates, as the documentary reveals.
Sanson said watching the old footage as research for the documentary was a labour of love.
"That was one of the fun things about it, trolling through hours and hours of old footage and watching not only what he did, but what others did around him...there were some pretty amazing tries," he said.
"You almost forgot what you were doing. You just end up watching it."
Sanson said there was a deliberate intention to have the documentary angle focus on the Super rugby aspect of Cullen's career, rather than his career as a whole.
The first-ever Super Rugby match, between the Blues and Hurricanes, was played in Palmerston North 1996, a platform that launched the then 20-year-old, who would go on to score 308 points in 85 appearances for the Hurricanes.
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The old footage spoke for itself and was a reminder of his sheer class and evasiveness. Cullen was one player where that overused term "freak" could truly apply.
He was one of the most potent running fullbacks world rugby has seen. He was one of the first true stars of the new professional era where he was given a licence and freedom to express himself.
The documentary also revealed an era of Hurricanes rugby that was high on razzle dazzle that didn't always equal results.
"Back then the Hurricanes were not overly successful, but it didn't seem to bother fans. The way Christian and his teammates played turned rugby into genuine entertainment," he said.
"Some of the games he played for the Hurricanes were sensational."
Sanson said he wanted to thank the staff at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō, where he sourced much information on Cullen's days playing for Horowhenua from the archive room where old copies of the Horowhenua Chronicle were housed.
"And I had a good crew to work with, and Christian himself was great, and modest in his approach to it. It can't be easy doing something that's all about you."
"Another thing was all the other players that were asked to be involved. Everyone put their hand up and said 'I'm keen'."
There was a further Horowhenua flavour to the documentary as former All Black and Horowhenua representative Carlos Spencer was interviewed extensively. The pair grew up in the same era and played together at schoolboy level.
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The credits reel also revealed that the documentary narration was provided by another former product of Horowhenua in actor Mike Minogue, a former student of Horowhenua College.
Sanson, who had worked at Sky Sport for the last 12 years, also received acclaim for a similar-styled documentary that gave a in depth insight into the career and personality behind former All Black player and coach Wayne Smith, that was released last year.
Some of Sanson's other work included a documentary that looked back at the All Blacks historic first series win on South African soil in 1996, the Lions Tour of 2017, and No Regrets, which went behind the scenes of the Kiwi's historic 2008 World Cup win.
Christian Cullen: A Tribute to Greatness is a must-watch for New Zealand rugby fans. It screens on Prime TV on Monday, July 8 at 11pm.