A visit to the Haden lair was always stimulating. You had to be on point and ready for the provocative banter Andrew Maxwell Haden would send your way as he worked his way through another of his rugby theories.
He had as many of those as he had colleagues across the commercial and sporting worlds where his giant frame and sharp mind jousted with the best.
Business meetings were spasmodic but the opening gambit was usually the same. "Winston", he'd begin and I'd retort with "Angela Mary", before we'd dive into the conversation. Usually it was about rugby but Andy was also a strong sounding board about writing books, the state of journalism, golf, the future of Auckland or the nation's politics.
Our paths have crossed for nearly 40 years since he plied his on-field craft in Europe where he managed to dovetail careers with the Harlequins club on a Saturday in Britain before jetting off to play the next day for his Italian club. Those encounters combined with his insatiable entrepreneurial spirit, helped Haden venture into a range of projects.
After one promotional visit to a major store in London, Haden and his teammates were offered gifts and while most went for some standard theme, Haden chose an air compressor which he sent back to New Zealand to start a business filling dive tanks.
After his dominant playing career across the globe, Haden set up his Sporting Contacts company with its broad tentacles and there was some wry amusement in the 1980s when the company with the agent provocateur at its head, took up a contract as marketing adviser to the New Zealand Rugby Union. For all the fox in the henhouse images that appointment provoked, Haden and his group got things moving and sparked changes such as registering the silver fern logo on the All Black jerseys.
He was similarly provocative in his playing days and it was A-grade entertainment to hear him sound off against some of the administrators, especially in the UK. Post-match clubhouse conversations in his company were legendary.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Recollections about Haden from his rugby and business colleagues will be extensive and somewhere as big as Eden Park - where Haden was king for the blue and white hoops for so long - feels so connected for his funeral. Haden was too wily to be a fulltime coach but many who rose to that honour with the All Blacks called on his expertise if they or their team were under the cosh.
When the All Blacks faced a series defeat against the Lions in 1993, coach Laurie Mains and Haden dispatched their antipathy to sort out the forward troubles and engineer a strong victory.
That purpose and getting through to the nub of issues was a hallmark of Haden's character, a man whose mission here has ended but whose vigour will continue through others who have crossed his path.