Gary Whetton's closest teammates called him Boy Wonder.

He was an exceptional package of athletic talent but unmotivated for large chunks of his secondary schooling. An Outward Bound course changed his attitude and fitness and at 21, he began his stellar All Black career in the infamous Flour Bomb test at Eden Park against the Springboks.

His ball-skills, scrum technique and lineout leaping ticked all the boxes for an international lock but Whetton brought more.

He was a master at kickoffs and cover defence while his speed and enthusiasm meant he was like an extra looseforward in getting to support in broken play.


Whetton suffered very few selection rebuffs although he was suspended for two tests in 1986 after being involved in the Cavaliers expedition. Once he was reinstated, his game went to another level.

Those skills ripened through the heart of his All Black career as the side took out the first World Cup and went on an unbeaten streak which almost lasted four years.

"The selectors decided upon a game of skill, pace and aggression and chose players to fit," Whetton said.

Inexorably that success wilted and that coincided with one of the more controversial chapters in All Black history when Whetton was picked to replace the unbeaten Wayne Shelford as captain.

That storm became a tempest throughout the 91 World Cup with the ageing playing group pulled in various directions when John Hart was installed as co-coach with Alex Wyllie.

Whetton was in the middle of the muddle, the Wallabies had got the All Blacks' measure and his career was about to expire after the playoff victory against Scotland.

He wanted to continue but was left out by the new selectors although he did play against the All Blacks that season for the World XV.

Date of birth: 15 December 1959
Position: Lock
Matches: 101
Tests: 58
Test debut: 21 July 1984 v Australia, Sydney
Final test: 27 October 1991 v Australia, Dublin
Province: Auckland
Test tries: 1
Test points: 4