There is an air of absolute disbelief and deep sadness around the Herald offices and will be for some time.
John Drake is dead, at the tragically young age of 49. Lean heavily on a cliche here, and say that he will be sadly missed. He is a huge loss to this newspaper and to the national rugby dialogue.
While his family and friends grieve at the tragedy, those of us who came into contact with him via rugby have been left stunned, and also shaken at the brutality of life.
He is also the first of our 1987 World Cup rugby heroes to pass away - among the players or coaches - although he has been taken so young that the best view about the significance of this is that life is very unfair sometimes.
Many of us around these offices are from Drake's era, and his sudden passing is another reminder that we must all make the most of our days on this Earth. So, also to best remember that Drake had a full and fun-filled time.
It was just over 10 years ago that, having heard Drake on radio, I encouraged the Herald to hire him as a columnist. He has been with us ever since - as well as in other areas of the media - dispensing measured views that could go the extra mile.
As an Auckland and All Black prop, he had been a quiet revolutionary. He had a touch more flair than the ordinary tighthead of the day, yet among that 1987 lineup he was a bulwark in playing contribution and personality rather than a flamboyant star.
Drake was marginally ahead of a time he had no intention of being part of as player. He quietly drifted out of the game in his late 20s, after just eight momentous tests. This in itself hinted at a maverick personality - to give away the black jersey was certainly not the norm.
I never quite got from him why he quit the game early, but suspect that he knew he had reached a pinnacle and - being rather worldly-wise and not rugby obsessed - wanted to get on with life. This was to include moving with his family to Mt Maunganui, where his bulky frame could be spotted travelling by bicycle, and running various business interests including the Cotton Traders clothing company.
He was tailor made for a media role because of his calm intelligence and a willingness to speak his mind.
What always stood out was his knowledge of the detail, and an awareness of the various forces that go to make up a team and the game.
On July 13, 1998, his first column appeared with a subheading "John Drake, an All Black prop in the 1987 World Cup-winning side, joins the Herald team". Within a month, he was calling for a new broom through the All Blacks, but outrageous criticism wasn't his stock and trade.
He contributed elsewhere, and once explained the devious ways of the front rowers and happily contributed to memory lane stories including about the '87 World Cup.
The All Blacks were billeted for a time at the tournament, and Drake recounted a farmyard turkey shoot. The story that really sticks though is the one he repeated a number of times, about the wing Craig Green who won the World Cup on a Saturday and was back working on Christchurch roofs by Monday morning. Green surveyed this particular kingdom and decided to swap it for a more lucrative one overseas, said "Drakey".
Drake's forte was an ability to prick the thinking by sailing into the prevailing wind without causing a hideous splash. Over time, this made him a terrific voice of reason, a devilish worker of the middle ground. You could trust his motives and his reasoning, and he took his role seriously but not himself too seriously.
Whether as a television and radio commentator or columnist, you never felt that Drake was interested in personal glory. He also preferred to deal with matters on the field, rather than the world of rugby politics. Not that this was beyond him. He could probably have delved into this better than most, but rarely chose to do so.
He had his idiosyncracies as a columnist, the most consistent being that he almost delighted in spelling players' names phonetically. He was there to provide the thinking, you could almost hear him say, and it was up to subeditors to muck around with the words.
Since the introduction of email, the columns Drake sent us invariably began with the words "Here goes..." followed by what one colleague termed a stream of consciousness, which is a way of saying they lacked traditional forms of punctuation.
More than anything though, he was a man who marched to his own beat. I remember well the repeated calls for Drake over an airport loudspeaker system one day. We assumed that Drake, who my rugby media colleagues swear was excellent and enthusiastic company on the road, had been unfortunately delayed. It turned out that having been given a ridiculous travel schedule, he had already departed on a more direct and self-organised journey home.
And when asked about a reunion for the 1987 World Cup team, he responded briskly that since the New Zealand Rugby Union had never bothered to organise one, he would be giving it a miss.
The repeating of any common rugby misconception to Drake's way of thinking would be greeted with a firm and prickly, but never malicious, slap down. He garnered tremendous respect, from one and all. Readers' responses to his columns were invariably affectionate. His death is, to repeat, a huge loss for this paper.
Our thoughts are with John's family now, and to them we offer sincerest and deepest condolences.