All Blacks captain farewelled withhaka
Sir John Graham was farewelled with a 2500-strong haka at the end of a funeral service celebrating his contribution to sports and education as a former All Black captain, NZ Cricket manager, university chancellor and Auckland Grammar school headmaster.
Auckland Grammar School students silently filed into the courtyard outside St. Mary’s Cathedral Church on Monday.
A group of 80 students turned into a crowd of 2500 in one hour, all patiently waiting to greet the exiting mourners and Graham’s coffin with a haka that reverberated around the Auckland suburb of Parnell, causing passing motorists to slow down.
It was a rousing end to a service that would have made Graham, known as DJ, ‘‘exceptionally happy’’, according to former All Black coach Sir Graham Henry.
‘‘I wondered whether the church was going to big enough and all those sorts of things, and perhaps it wasn’t, but that’s what DJ wanted,’’ Henry said.
‘‘He would have said ‘no fuss, let’s get on with it, one hour will be enough, three speeches’.’’
Graham’s history at Auckland Grammar was well known but perhaps less well known was his work at Southern Cross campus, in Mangere, which had caused the ‘‘black and white’’ Graham to change some of his own values, according to Henry.
Henry said Graham had a ‘‘gruff exterior’’ but understood people and felt great compassion for them.
‘‘He probably assisted more people than anybody else I know.’’
Graham was knighted for his services to education and sports in 2011.
The mourners at his funeral reflected on the wide impact he had on the country with former Prime Minister Sir John Key, also managed the New Zealand cricket team from 1997 to 1999.
He put New Zealand’s infatuation with rugby into perspective.
‘‘I don’t think rugby union is anywhere near as important in this country as solving the problems of poverty and unemployment.’’
The roar of the haka for Sir John Graham was heard for kilometres around.