26 John Graham [1958-1964] CAPS 22
Ironically, it wasn’t so much of what John Graham did on the field that was so influential, it was more what he did o it.
Graham, a flanker, was not a big man by most standards but was a punishing tackler and a sound thinker.
He toured South Africa in 1960, Australia in 1962 and Britain, Ireland and France in 1963-64 before captaining the All Blacks at home against Australia in 1964.
In an unlikely way he made a significant contribution to Brian Lochore’s career when Lochore, a little down in the dumps about lack of playing time in 1963, asked Graham when he would get a chance. Graham responded by saying he was doing fine and pointed out how few chances he had before establishing himself in South Africa in 1960.
Lochore perked up, and found himself suddenly thrust into the next game against England, due to illness, for his test debut.
But it was in his post-playing career that Graham had a greater influence. Apart from two stints as Auckland assistant coach he was involved in the setting up of the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Rugby Council, an institution that has been so pivotal in ensuring the development of depth in the game, while at the same time serving as headmaster of Auckland Grammar, one of the country’s rugby nurseries.
With governance skills he was also involved in crucial reviews of aspects of the game while also serving as a president of New Zealand Rugby.