NZ Rugby World - - Rugby Championship -

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.

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