Former All Black and Auckland rugby stalwart Bernie McCahill still finds time in his busy schedule to do his mum's lawns - which is a lucky thing for her, given his expertise.

McCahill bought a Jim's Mowing franchise in 2009 and spent about 18 months working "on the tools".

"I must say I really enjoyed the physicality of mowing lawns and cutting hedges," he said.

"But I guess there came a point when [I had] a hundred-odd lawns. You've either got to decide to put on another trailer, or stay where you are, or get out."


McCahill wasn't content with just adding another trailer. Instead, he and a business partner bought the Auckland region of the business.

"The opportunity presented itself, so I thought I might as well grab it."

McCahill played 32 games, including 10 tests, for the All Blacks between 1987 and 1991. He's possibly better known for his exploits at provincial level, where he was a member of the hugely successful Auckland side of the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s.

That team racked up six provincial championships in seven seasons from 1984 to 1990, and still hold the record for the most Ranfurly Shield defences, with 61 matches.

The lawn-mowing venture is just the latest enterprise for McCahill, who retired from playing in 1993. He worked in property development and drain-laying, and was an assistant coach of English side Harlequins for two seasons in the late 1990s.

But for all that post-career activity, McCahill's affection for those heady Eden Park days with Auckland remains undiminished.

"I think it was the best environment I've ever been in," he said of the team. "We were extremely lucky to even be a part of a group like that. Everybody seemed to get on well with each other. There were no cliques, and everybody was on a level playing field."

It helped that the team contained some of the biggest names ever in New Zealand rugby, such as Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Jones and Sir John Kirwan.

"It was a freak time to be part of something extraordinary," the second five-eighths said. "Teams couldn't compete with us. We all seemed to know where the space was. There were times when we would score a try and walking back to halfway you'd be going, 'man, that was something'. It was freaky.

"There was something special about the whole environment, which included not just us but our parents, wives and girlfriends."

He credits then-coach John Hart with creating the team's culture, firstly by laying down clear rules about things like time keeping and dress codes.

"And then he brought the families in to be part of the group. We used to have dinners after games and Alan Whetton used to play songs on the piano and we used to stand around singing as one big happy family.

"We catch up at golf days and have a Christmas drink with each other, and guys' 50ths come up. We weren't just good mates then, we're good mates today."

For a man who knew only success with Auckland, McCahill finds it hard to stomach the current state of the game in the city - the side's 48-9 loss to old foe Canterbury in the ITM Cup being a particular sore point.

"There's no way Canterbury should beat us by 40-odd points. It just doesn't seem right. We are doing something fundamentally wrong in the system.

"Since the game went professional, is probably when Auckland started going backwards. We were certainly the most professional team in the amateur era, but now [the game's] professional, we seem to be the most amateur."