This week it’s been 100 years since the bloody bat­tle­field death of the coun­try’s first All Blacks cap­tain. To­day, as the na­tional team run on to the field at Buenos Aires, our rugby play­ers pay trib­ute. Shab­nam Dast­gheib re­ports

Sunday News - - NEWS -

DAVE Gal­la­her’s fam­ily say they’re proud of the Kiwi hero’s legacy.

And they’re es­pe­cially thank­ful that New Zealand is still cel­e­brat­ing his life a hun­dred years after his death on a World War I bat­tle­field.

Gal­la­her, who was the cap­tain of the 1905 All Blacks, the Orig­i­nals, died on Oc­to­ber 4, 1917 after he was shot in the head dur­ing one of the coun­try’s blood­i­est cam­paigns ever.

All Blacks great Sir Michael Jones said it was im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the ‘‘ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice’’ made by Gal­la­her, and the 13 other All Blacks who died in the Great War.

‘‘As a ref­er­ence point for All Black rugby it’s still just as pow­er­ful to­day as it was for my era, and for Sir Colin Meads’ era, be­cause the story keeps get­ting passed down,’’ said Jones.

‘‘Its rel­e­vance is so real for ev­ery gen­er­a­tion. Cer­tainly in terms of the All Black folk­lore, the story stands out. It will re­main a very defin­ing as­pect of the All Black story.

‘‘The ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice they paid speaks to the im­por­tance of the jersey and ev­ery­thing it em­bod­ies.’’

For­mer All Black cap­tain Wayne ‘‘Buck’’ Shelford, who is him­self ex-mil­i­tary, hav­ing served 11 years in the Navy, will be lead­ing a trib­ute haka at Eden Park on Wednesday.

‘‘I be­lieve it does a lot of good for some of our All Blacks to ac­tu­ally see what these guys did for our coun­try,’’ Shelford said.

‘‘Be­cause that’s what you’re do­ing when you’re play­ing sport. You’re serv­ing your coun­try, and rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try around the world.’’

Gal­la­her’s great-grand­son, Mike Tubbs, 49, said his fam­ily would never for­get the sac­ri­fices the great man and rugby player made back then.

‘‘On a per­sonal level, I’m proud of what my great-grand­fa­ther and the oth­ers did for New Zealand dur­ing the war, giv­ing their lives,’’ said Tubbs.

In the 80s his grand­mother, Nora – Gal­la­her’s only daugh­ter – used to take him along to rugby matches and events at Eden Park where his great-grand­fa­ther was usu­ally hon­oured. Tubbs said his fam­ily looked up to Gal­la­her, but none of them was ever as ‘‘com­pe­tent’’ a rugby player as the leg­end.

Great-niece Kay Carter, 80, said Gal­la­her was al­ways a talk­ing point for the ex­tended fam­ily when they gath­ered at fam­ily re­unions. ‘‘Ev­ery­body is proud of David.’’

This week Gal­la­her’s name will once again light up the field.

At Eden Park on Wednesday, a giant poppy and 492 per­son­alised white crosses will be erected on the field to hon­our each of the men killed at the Bat­tle of Brood­seinde in the months-long Pass­chen­daele cam­paign in Bel­gium.

Another 13 crosses will hon­our the All Blacks who lost their lives in World War I.

War­birds will fly past, the New Zealand navy band is sched­uled to play, and sev­eral haka, in­clud­ing one by the De­fence Blacks and one led by Shelford, will be per­formed.

Gal­la­her and the men who fought in the Bat­tle of Brood­seinde gained a kilo­me­tre of ter­ri­tory and took the Graven­stafel Spur, open­ing up the way to Pass­chen­daele.

The vic­tory was rare in a war that was mostly fought in the trenches but also came at a great cost – the loss of hun­dreds of men in­clud­ing Gal­la­her, who was the old­est and most fa­mous All Black ca­su­alty of the war.

Sev­eral for­mer All Black cap­tains such as Richie McCaw, Tana Umaga and Sean Fitz­patrick have all paid trib­ute to their pre­de­ces­sor over the years. Most of them have also ei­ther vis­ited his grave or his birth­place in Ire­land.

‘‘He died in the First World War and we as a team recog­nise he was the fig­ure of the legacy that started where we are to­day,’’ McCaw said. ‘‘Over the years we’ve al­ways made sure we un­der­stand and pay re­spects to that.’’

How­ever, McCaw was quick to recog­nise that Gal­la­her wasn’t the only All Black killed.

‘‘There’s a few of them that were part of the All Black club that gave their lives in the First World War. We’ve talked about that . . . about the guys who died. It’s some­thing we re­mem­ber as a team and Ki­wis in gen­eral.’’

‘‘We get all wor­ried about pres­sure but it makes what we do seem in­signif­i­cant re­ally.’’

As the cap­tain of the first New Zealand na­tional team to tour Bri­tain, Gal­la­her had a huge in­flu­ence on shap­ing the mind­set and grit of the cur­rent day All Blacks.

He was known for never back­ing down in the face of a threat, big or small. This at­ti­tude led the Orig­i­nals to an al­most clean sweep dur­ing the 1905 tour of the Bri­tish Isles.

An im­mi­grant who ar­rived in

Nearly 500 per­son­alised white crosses will be placed on Eden Park to mark the Ki­wis who died in the Bat­tle of Brood­seinde. Dave Gal­la­her was one of them.

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