It's a shame most remember Andy Haden for that theatrical dive out of the lineout against Wales in 1978 – he was far more than that, even if he could be simultaneously entertaining and infuriating.
I have three main memories of an All Black who earned maybe the highest accolade in sport: he changed the game.
The first was playing club rugby against him and Auckland champions Ponsonby. They won the match only when Haden, then about 21, scored a late try from a lineout move. Three of us saw it coming and left the goal line to stop him.
We thought we had him. But he suddenly reared up, shedding one tackler like a piece of fluff. As he lunged up and over the line, I remember my feet leaving the ground as did the other tackler's – he was that big and powerful.
However, Haden wasn't regarded as such by much of the rugby community at the time. If you'll forgive the expression (he would have), many regarded him as a "big girl's blouse" – an insult taking a negative view of femininity to cast aspersions on masculinity.
Second memory: Haden booed loudly by the Eden Park crowd when coming on as a replacement in those early days. They thought he was all mouth and no trousers, as the saying goes. He gave the crowd what we Kiwis know as "the fingers", the one and only time I have seen a home crowd boo their own man and the only first-class player to return the compliment.
Selected for the 1972-73 All Black tour of Britain and France, he spent five years in the wilderness before winning the first of his 41 test caps in 1977. The general consensus then was that Haden was too soft for the hard stuff; his gift of the gab translated as a sign of weakness. The strong, silent type was still in vogue.
He proved the doubters wrong, returning from playing in France a formidable opponent labelled by coach John Hart as probably the most mentally and physically tough player of his time. When finally selected for the test team, he became almost irreplaceable; a world-class lineout exponent, a smart tactician and a player teams are built round.
If his mouth was part of the reason he originally found it difficult to crack selection in Auckland and All Black teams, it was later put to good use in championing players' rights. He became a vital cog in the wheel of professionalism as it slowly rolled over the top of rugby's old amateur principles and moribund leadership. That was where he changed the game, his constant needling always moving the needle.
He didn't always use his cunning and loquaciousness to good effect. He was a prime mover and shaker in the 1986 Cavaliers rebel tour of South Africa – a low water mark on and off the field. It's a measure of the man that, if he was to read this now, he would be on the phone, strongly disagreeing and listing ways the Cavaliers were good for New Zealand rugby.
That refusal to back down, to stand up for what he believed, was part of the reason he was such a good player – and made him a powerful advocate, respected by many of his peers; nearly 2m of indignant, verbose rugby player is a high-impact force.
He liked nothing better than taking on the establishment and stuffed shirts within. That intellect and force of personality meant he could spy an administrator on the other side of a crowded room, engage, and within minutes have the opponent wavering, if not converted.
Mostly, however, he was almost pathologically fond of a bit of mischief. He once sought out a non-Auckland rugby writer about the writer's armchair selection of the next All Black squad. Haden, needless to say, wasn't in it.
"Do you think," Haden said, "that your intellectual ability to select an All Black team could be compromised by your overwhelming regional bias?" The writer spluttered – clearly disconcerted by an unfamiliar level of tables-turned scrutiny.
Haden wasn't always on the winning team when it came to the verbals. Sometimes you wondered if that willingness to take on the establishment transformed into a desire to shock – or maybe some "tell it like it is" moments became more "tell it like you want it to be".
He copped a lot of flak – deservedly – for what he called the Crusaders' ability to win by restricting selection of Polynesian players. He managed to offend almost everyone by outlining how women caught up in sexual abuse allegations against All Blacks were often predatory females. However, as this came in the context of allegations against another All Black, his contention somehow managed to make it sound like such women got what they deserved.
But his love of mischief never waned. Third memory: being woken by Haden on the flight from Argentina after his final All Black tour in 1985. In my coverage for the NZ Herald, I had mistakenly managed to file a story containing a term with a meaning risqué in the extreme.
Haden had found on the flight a copy containing the story and shook me awake. "Look", he said with schoolboy glee, his anti-establishment tendencies in full cry, revelling at the sight of a leading newspaper caught with its pants down. "I'm keeping this," he said. I was told later he had it framed and hung somewhere in his house.
He should have played more tests and, in particular, should have gone to South Africa in 1976 to join his Ponsonby, Auckland and All Black teammate Peter Whiting in a formidable second row.
But, like him or dislike him, he more than earned admission to that special All Blacks' club who comfortably wear the adjective "great" – and occupies a unique position in All Black history.