Stories involving Grant Fox normally come with the prefix 'former All Black'.

At present, the appropriate terminology is 'Martin Crowe's lifelong friend'.

Fox has paid tribute to his mate of 40 years, who died of cancer today.

The pair met on their first day of secondary school in 1976 at Auckland Grammar School. They celebrated their anniversary last month.


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"We had lunch," Fox said. "A malt beer, glass of red wine and a butter chicken pie. It became a ritual for us in recent times."

Fox was a new boarder at Tibbs House, the school's hostel; Crowe was from out of zone at Titirangi.

"I didn't know anybody, coming from the Waikato," Fox said. "We introduced ourselves and struck up a friendship. I'd stay at his parents' place on weekends and he'd come down to our kiwifruit orchard in the holidays. That relationship will never change, although sadly it just won't be physical any more.

"We all know what a genius he was with the cricket bat, but he played first XV rugby [on the wing], squash, and we'd team up as doubles partners in the tennis championships and take some of the stars to the brink of defeat.

"We were fierce competitors, but took great joy in each others' careers and success."

That extended to a bet on who would play the most tests in their chosen sports. Crowe won, playing 77 for the national cricket side compared to Fox's 46 for the All Blacks.

"He won the numbers battle, but I have a print of a test at Lord's on my wall at home with a message on it: 'To Foxy, we both won, Hogan'."

Crowe was known as 'Hogan' because he resembled actor Bob Crane who played the eponymous character in the television show Hogan's Heroes.

"He was a compassionate man," Fox said. "Even in ill health he was very much at peace with it. He was in a great place mentally, if not physically.

"The thing I will miss most is that we're not going to grow old together playing golf with the banter and red wine afterwards. He enjoyed the good things in life."