21 Keven Mealamu [2002-2015] CAPS 132
Keven Mealamu is the second most capped All Black in history. He survived 14 years of test football as a hooker and that kind of says it all.
He was tough. Really tough. And committed. The other thing about Mealamu was that he would do anything for the team.
He trained himself into the ground – for the team. He’d play himself into the ground – for the team. He never drank. He never got into trouble off the field. He was open, honest, gregarious and everyone that encountered Mealamu respected him.
How could they not? “He’s a modernday phenomenon, the way he’s been able to have longevity in the game,” said fellow All Black Aaron Cruden the week that Mealamu broke Colin Meads’ record for first-class games.
“To break that record is no small feat. He is irreplaceable. He’s one of those guys who every week – regardless of his role – holds such high standards. As a young guy coming in, when you see that, from a guy his age  to be so professional and look after his body so well, you admire it and take lessons from it in what you need to be to stay in this game as long as he has.”
The other big influence Mealamu had was as head of internal discipline between 2012 and 2015. Mealamu was the man naughty All Blacks had to go see. They had to look him in the eye and say sorry for whatever breach of protocol they had committed.
It was a sobering and difficult experience that players became pretty keen to avoid – which explains why discipline within the All Blacks has been so good.
Cruden, funnily enough, had to face that experience in 2014 when he missed a flight to Argentina. It was bad enough dealing with the coaches after he missed the flight, but Cruden said nothing compared with sitting down to apologise to Mealamu.
“That just shows the quality of Kev. There was this sternness and then the fact he was able to point somebody out and then still go out there and make sure they are OK.
“That is what makes him a great All Black and a great man.”
TO BREAK THAT RECORD IS NO SMALL FEAT. HE IS IRREPLACEABLE. HE’S ONE OF THOSE GUYS WHO EVERY WEEK – REGARDLESS OF HIS ROLE – HOLDS SUCH HIGH STANDARDS.’ AARON CRUDEN
DISCIPLINE MASTER Keven Mealamu played a huge role in influencing off-field behaviour.