Put on the spot by an All Black great

New Zealand LCV - - NEWS SPECIAL | OPINION - BY MIKE STOCK

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.

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