On another long drive back from the 'Naki on Wednesday, I dialled the radio onto the Edge FM to see what reason, this time, the afternoon drive crew had for streaking around the office naked.

Radio shows seem to do a lot of naked stunts, don't they? I guess because nobody can see them through the speakers.

In this case, it was because one of the DJs had made a foolish bet with his offsider that there was no way he could get an All Black on the phone for an interview. Cue Stephen Donald on the line, and the arrival of a big smile on my face. You just can't get away from the old "Beaver" these days.

The 2011 folk hero - the bloke who was whitebaiting on the Waikato River while the cellphone was going mad in his ute from Graham Henry trying to tell him that two (and eventually three) of his fellow first-fives had pulled up lame.


Thus the man who 10 months beforehand had apparently cost us a test to Australia, all by himself, was going to get his shot at redemption.

Fast forward four years and Donald is everywhere on television and in print.

He is the face of the ANZ "Dream Big New Zealand" campaign as its ambassador, and is in demand for a host of other charities.

In a few weeks he will be on the plane to England as an official host of the "All Blacks Tours group", starting with the semifinals.

Even though he part-owns the Wolf & Beaver bar in his Waiuku home town, south of Auckland, it is said the affable country boy finds it impossible to buy a drink anywhere in the country these days, with Waiuku still being christened "Beaverville" on special occasions.

That would have seemed an impossible dream in 2011 as Donald struggled to pull down his tight-fitting All Blacks shirt to jog on to Eden Park, past a hobbled Aaron Cruden, as more than 60,000 supporters held their breath.

At that moment, watching in the open section in the left hand grandstand, I received identical text messages from my best friend at his home in Christchurch and my sister somewhere among the throng down at the Auckland Viaduct.

Their opinion was stark - "oh, sh*t". If they deny it now, I've still got the texts.

Three years before, while working in nearby Pukekohe, I sat down with Donald's parents, Brett and Sheryll, to discuss the moment their boy got the news he had made the New Zealand squad to play England.

Brett, who I had known for a while as coach of the Waiuku premier team, said his son was so struck when his name was called on the radio (they didn't have the Rugby Channel) that he could not speak and just "leaned over the chair", gripping it for support as the moment washed over him.

It was hard then, for the Donald family to have to bare all the cat calls, jibes and the publicised condemnation following the 2010 test in Hong Kong where their son took the field with the All Blacks 24-12 ahead, then missed touch for Australia's James O'Connor to flash over for the winning try.

"I think Stephen's biggest crime was only that he wasn't Dan Carter," Brett told a London paper in 2011.

"Even when he was warming up in games afterwards, he was getting abused during his practice drills.

"We'd be in the stand having to listen to all the vitriolic, stupid stuff, biting our lips and trying to ignore it. It was upsetting for him, too."

Back to Eden Park.

For those wondering about the scene, I can tell you sideline commentator Ian Smith's observation that Donald was "striding forward" when referee Craig Joubert blew a penalty for New Zealand in the 46th minute was bang on.

Donald had been back in the "sweeper" position - a spot usually covered by the fullback - with the idea to protect him from injury as much as possible.

As the whistle blew, I cast my eyes back down the field and Donald had instantly brought his head forward and started walking to the spot - before Richie McCaw had even signalled to the posts.

"Well, can't argue with a confident man," I thought.

I guess this was why in the moment when the ball sailed through the right-of-centre section of the goal posts, I took a moment to celebrate - not for the All Blacks and what proved a key (ultimately priceless) eight point lead, but instead for the humble kid from Waiuku.

He was doing his job, he was delivering all which could be asked.

This young man, who had been figuratively and verbally spat upon. Who had been told that not-his-best was in fact worthless.

The weight was off the shoulders, he would no longer have to live with the moniker of a choke artist.

He had done it for his country but more importantly, he had done it for his family and for himself.

Perhaps this is why Beaver's story is so revered these days, and will continue to be so regardless of what happens in the next six weeks.

By the very nature of their global success, we do not associate the All Blacks with underdog stories.

Their mantra, and our expectation, is to strive for excellence, not beat long odds.

By early 2011, Donald was considered no longer worthy of that mantle of excellence. So he went home.

In essence, he became one of us again - no longer exalted as among the national elite but instead merely a bloke making a living, in this case with his trade being rugby.

But by a twist of fate where three men, as Martika once sang, "all fell down, like toy soldiers", it was that common man, just one of us, who stepped up to win the world championship.

Maybe Donald's ANZ commercials aren't so cheesy after all.

We should all "Dream Big New Zealand". Occasionally they do come true.