NZ mourns John Graham

Thu, 03 Aug 2017 05:37
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NEWS: Former All Blacks captain John Graham, perhaps best known for his strong opposition to apartheid, has died at the age of 82, officials said Thursday.

Auckland Grammar School, where Graham had a distinguished career in education after retiring as  player, said he died peacefully late Wednesday after "a life well-lived".

Graham played for the All Blacks 53 times from 1958 to 1964, including 22 Tests, captaining the side 10 times.

He also served as President of New Zealand Rugby from 2005 to 2006 and managed the national cricket team, the Black Caps, from 1997-1999.

Graham's profile on the All Blacks website describes him as "an intelligent player with a great turn of speed".

A defining moment in his life came when he toured South Africa in 1960 and was appalled by what he saw, speaking openly about his feelings.

"I said that if we had any conscience and feeling for humanity, we should not have been touring South Africa," he later recalled.

Graham refused to attend any matches when the Springboks controversially toured New Zealand in 1981.

He was also an outspoken opponent of advertising on the All Blacks' jersey, and said New Zealanders should focus more on eradicating poverty than excelling at rugby.

New Zealand Rugby described him as "an exceptional All Blacks flank and a dedicated rugby administrator".

"He was a leader in every endeavour he turned to, and his long list of honours and achievements are testaments to his exceptional character," NZR Chief Steve Tew said.

Former Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming said Graham's no-nonsense approach turned around the struggling cricket team, leading to a series win over England in 1999. 

"We needed discipline, we were playing poorly but also carrying on a little bit like rock stars," he told Radio Sport.

"Straight away he had a huge impact, I think some of us were shaving twice a day to make sure our appearance was right!"

Agence France-Presse