COMMENT

He nourished my love of sport. He walked alongside me to encourage that interest and helped add the trimmings so my enjoyment flourished.

We learned together on the sunny summer banks at Seddon Park and from our winter vantage point at Eden Park as he encouraged me to take several steps down the wicket to challenge spin bowlers and kick with my left foot as well as my natural right.

Practice was fun and meaningful for all of us. Once our natural youthful enthusiasm settled, he'd sell us an idea to lift our performances.

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If you learn and practise the essence in any sport, he said, you'll sustain your enjoyment levels.

Summer holidays were spent swimming and waiting for low tide to allow our game of beach cricket with teams drawn from any interested bystanders. In the colder months, he'd swap to a beret and gumboot garb on Saturday mornings as he took us all over town to play barefoot footy against rival clubs.

We'd scout the papers and listen to radio commentaries in the middle of the night if the All Blacks were on a rare jaunt to Europe. As we edged through low-scoring tussles and lauded the feats of the men in black on the 1963 and '67 tours of the UK, he spiked that interest with halftime stories about the '37 Springboks who were the best side he'd seen.

His descriptions of Danie Craven's dive passes with the skills of Brand and Babrow further out and the weighty domination of their pack were great sustenance alongside the mug of tea and toast my mother made.

Those chats continued until this week when he took his boots and ball on his last walk and, while my father won't be watching the All Blacks play the Pumas tomorrow, his words will sit with me.

Like many of us, he was confused by the breakdown and tackle rules but there was no dispute about who should play in the black No 15 jersey. Ben Smith was a terrific player and best fullback in the land, so Steve Hansen and his selectors needed to fit others around him.

In our formative footy days together, we had a broad sample. At Eden Park, we loved the way the Auckland forwards, geed on by Des Connor and Mac Herewini, put a chokehold on visiting teams, and at Rugby Park in the Waikato, we cheered on the Clarke crew and almost claimed Pinetree as one of ours.

Whenever the All Blacks played, there were no split loyalties but selections were always debated and those got an extra boost when our experienced commentator neighbour Colin Snedden joined the discussions.

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While we had those warm memories, my father loved how better grounds, equipment, rule changes and superb television coverage supplemented a much broader game and the skills of the modern players.

When the All Blacks played at home, the timing was perfect. Fire on, a pre-dinner drink and meal in front of the news, then kickoff, but games across the Ditch started too late and matches in South Africa had to be recorded. A late-morning kickoff tomorrow in Buenos Aires was better but a Sunday drive with mum usually took precedence because for all his passion about rugby, his love for my mother was stronger.