Big Norm Maxwell had been a dedicated Crusader and All Black to the detriment of his physical wellbeing. Barely 100kg, he played 34 tests between 1999 and 2002 and, by the end of 2003, his back was stu ed, his knees were wobbly and his hamstrings were like piano wire.
Even though he was only 28, Maxwell knew he was poked.
It was the price he would have to pay for giving so much in a body that wasn’t actually equipped to deal with the ferocity of the collisions he imposed upon it.
After an extensive backpacking trip to try to piece himself back together, he returned midway through the 2004 season and played a few games for Canterbury.
He was still struggling so signed to play in Italy. He thought that he’d be able to cruise through a few games there and be well paid in the process. So he’d checked out mentally.
But the All Blacks selectors made a dramatic intrusion. All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith had been trying to sell Maxwell to the wider coaching group earlier in the year. Maxwell had played most of his test football when Smith had been the head coach.
Smith knew what Maxwell could o er and kept the faith despite the physical di culties the big lock faced.
Henry wasn’t convinced – not even close – until Maxwell played a huge game against Waikato. After that Henry decided he'd found the right man to partner Chris Jack on the end of year tour.
Maxwell ripped up his Italian contract and found himself on the plane to Europe in November, crying into his All Black shirt when it was presented before the test against Italy.
“This is probably my last game for some time so I can give it everything and, even if bits fall o , I will have plenty of time to recover and get myself sorted over the summer,” Maxwell said before the crunch encounter with France.
He gave 60 minutes of what Henry would later say was one of the best locking performances he'd ever seen. Maxwell took that Italian contract in 2005.