Put on the spot by an All Black great
ONE EVENING IN SEPTEMBER, I MET A personal hero at a Holden function.
Not a racing driver nor a car designer, but a hero from a field of endeavour in which I participated but failed to excel.
In five decades in journalism, I’ve met many famous people, from rock stars, racing and rallying world champions, to former US President Jimmy Carter.
But that September evening, as I sat down to dinner with journalist mates, I realised that right opposite me was the All Black I’ve admired most in recent years, the great Mils Muliaina.
These days Mils is a Holden ambassador, using a Colorado ute in his Skills with Mils programme that brings life and sporting skills to young sportspeople, focusing not only on-field performance but on what goes on off the field
He says the programme gives young people the chance to learn skills and consider scenarios which are transferable between the field and their day-to-day life.
In his playing days, no-one could get me leaping out of my chair like Mils did, me screaming “Mils” as he broke the defence and powered through to dot down.
But here I was sitting down and breaking bread with this All Black great.
The conversation between my more rugby-knowledgeable mates and Mils went to and fro as we ate.
My rugby “skills” peaked at captaining the 5Cs at Mt Albert Grammar – not a great side in a rugby-proud school – or later in the 4As trying to tackle our barnstorming and considerably bigger coach, the late great sculptor Arnold Wilson.
“Come on, Stock, tackle me,” this formidable man would yell as I braced myself and then threw all I had into stopping him. I never dropped him, but usually I did halt his forward progress.
At that Holden dinner in September Mils did an Arnold on me and put me on the spot.
“Mike,” he said. “What should I be looking for in a vehicle?”
Well, I paused and mentally stammered – sins that would have cost me dearly on the rugby field.
Knowing that Mils is a new father, I played the family hand: “mums like a vehicle that gives them a good view of the road, feels safe, has plenty of storage space, is easy to drive.”
It was a scrambling answer, I know, but it’s a fair description of why utes and SUVS have become the vehicle of choice for many families.
They offer most of the talents and amenities of a sedan but add in a commanding driving position, a sense of security, and a feeling of being in a very safe kind of vehicle.
I don’t think it was the greatest answer to Mils’ question but nor do I feel it was fudged.
My only regret was that I didn’t get a selfie with him or – what we old folks used to prize – an autograph.
All Black great Mils Muliaina with his Skills with Mils Holden Colorado.