All Black opens up about verbal altercations
SPOTLIGHT: A month after being named New Zealand’s grubbiest player, All Blacks and Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles has opened up about some of the most notable on-field altercations he’s had with players from around the world.
Forty-four percent of Super Rugby players nationwide voted Coles as the “biggest grub” in the country as part of an anonymous poll conducted by NZME radio producer Sam Casey earlier this year.
The 33-year-old veteran topped the poll by a considerable margin, with All Blacks teammate Brodie Retallick registering in second-place with just 15 percent of the vote, while Jordie Barrett was voted the third-biggest grub at 10 percent.
Coles took to the What a Lad podcast, hosted by fellow Hurricanes teammate James Marshall, last week to respond to his crowning as New Zealand’s biggest grub, where he outlined that he doesn’t intend on changing his style of play.
“It probably just comes out as passion and just trying to do everything I can to win. Sometimes it comes out a verbal spray, and I’ve copped it. I’ve been sin-binned for the way I play, with my heart on my sleeve, and I probably play on the edge,” Coles said.
“Things don’t always go to plan and I’ve got to live with that, but that’s just who I am and it’s got me this far, so I’m just going to keep doing it.”
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His reputation as someone who doesn’t shy away from confrontation hasn’t come without a plethora of stories about on-field altercations he’s had with opposition players.
As an example of that, Coles spoke early on in the podcast about how he targeted long-time friend and former Hurricanes teammate Beauden Barrett in his debut match for the Blues in the opening weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
That led to further discussions about players Coles has come up against in the international arena while playing for the All Blacks.
He noted an incident with Wallabies captain Michael Hooper during a Bledisloe Cup match in 2016 as one of the more memorable experiences he has had.
“Absolutely nothing but respect to Michael Hooper, champion player, one of the hardest players I’ve ever tackled and played against,” Coles said.
“But, I think it might have been ‘16 or ‘17 at Eden Park, the game was pretty tight, he speared me in a tackle, and I think I got the ball over to Jules [Julian Savea] and I think Jules ended up scoring.
“I just got up, and he’s kind of standing over me, [so] I got up as fast as I could, ran past and was like, ‘Yeah, yeah’, in his face and saying a few things, can’t really repeat them, and he’s kind of going back, and then I think Guzzler [Brodie Retallick] comes over and he’s spraying him as well.”
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Hooper isn’t the only Australian who has been subjected to a spray from Coles.
The 69-test hooker revealed that he was once involved in an in-game dispute with former Wallabies assistant coach Nathan Grey after landing what he claimed was an unintentional “cheap shot” on an Australian player.
“He was into me,” Coles said of Grey, who was stationed on the sideline as a water boy for the Wallabies during a test in Wellington.
“For the whole night he was going like, ‘You bloody cheap s***’, and I’m like, ‘You’re the bloody defence coach’.
“So I’ve gone back at him, we’ve scored, and I’m like ‘Good to see your defence is bloody working’, so I’ve had it all – players, coaches, managers.”
Coles also spoke about a verbal exchange he was involved with between Retallick and England prop Kyle Sinckler during a test match at Twickenham in 2018.
Describing the 2017 British and Irish Lions tourist as “good value” for his on-field chat, Coles said that he didn’t hold back from giving Sinckler banter after the young front-rower told Retallick he was “the ugliest guy in the world”.
“He was into it when we were over there at Twickenham. He was giving it, but to Guzzler. He was like, ‘You’re the ugliest guy in the world,’” Coles said.
“I was like, ‘Shut up’, and then he dropped the ball five metres out and me and Guzzler were like, ‘Yeah, you useless bastard’.
“But then he got subbed, and he was like, ‘Yeah, good work mate’, and I was like, ‘Yeah, bloody good talk out there bro’, and that was it.”
While renowned for his barbs in the heat of the battle, Coles maintained that his jibes weren’t to be taken personally, adding that he has no intention of changing the way he plays the game and conducts himself on the field.
“Like I said, it’s nothing personal. I’ve had to reap the repercussions of taking it too far and copped the abuse,” he said.
“That’s just the way I play on the edge and that’s just how I’ve played my career and I’m not probably going to change that now because I’ve only probably got a couple left.”