Andy Haden – A Headstrong, proud All Black leader

Andy Haden; the Headstrong All Black

The way he played and commented on the game, is how Andy Haden should be remembered, as a headstrong, yet proud and high-quality All Black lock and senior figure within the game.

Compiling over 100 tests for New Zealand, as well as 100 games for Auckland and 100 for his club Ponsonby; it makes Haden a ‘triple centurion’ but sadly, his death this week has removed a standard-bearer for New Zealand rugby. Although, standard was never how Andy Haden displayed his tremendous skills on and off the field.

The power forward was forthright on the pitch, as much as he was off of it. A 41 Test All Black who debuted in 1972, his tenure in the black jersey lasted over 12 years. He would captain the team on eight occasions, and his high standard of play and mana earned Haden a place in the pantheon of the game.

His time in provincial and representative rugby saw his status recognized. Haden became the voice of the common rugby player. Speaking for players of his generation against an administration who were ‘cemented in the amateur ways’. An advocate for the voiceless, Haden often confronted authority in a headstrong fashion, all the while establishing a career as a leading rugby observer, journalist and writer and commentator of influence and [sometimes] in a somewhat controversial manner.

Andy Haden; a Headstrong, proud All Black leader

When broken down, his rugby career is one that was noticed early and lasted for nearly two decades. Noted for his size and his presence in the lineout but also, for the same reason why he made in the provincial squad debut – he commanded the position.

A club career that saw Haden go from an early 1976 Gallaher title with Ponsonby, to his term with the Auckland provincial team.

A friend and former teammate, Sir Bryan Williams said “Andy was a very dominant and imposing figure on and off the field. He was at the forefront of so many great championships such as the Gallaher Shield, Ranfurly Shield, and the 1978 All Blacks Grand Slam tour. “

As well as representing Auckland, Haden played for the Harlequins club in London, and for Italian club Algida. This cosmopolitan mix added to the experience which Andy Haden garnered. He was an intelligent player, always looking to be innovative, and his captaincy and leadership saw him well respected by both his peers and opponents.

At his funeral service which was held at Eden Park on Monday, August 3, the list of former-All Blacks and his contemporaries was a who’s who of the rugby world.

Former All Blacks and Auckland coach John Hart praised Haden’s character both on and off the pitch. “I think he’s a colossus, a legend of the game – both as a player and what he did in leading change,” said Hart, who coached Haden during his career.

Eulogies and plaudits for Andy Haden

When playing, Andy Haden faced his opponents head-on. Be it the British Lions in 1977, a touring Australia team, or when offshore proudly wearing the Silver Fern. His contemporaries have all spoken well of his work ethic and attention to detail. Murray Mexted said Haden was “emphatic about his views. You knew where you stood with Andy. He was your classic, great bloody All Black.”

Former All Black Graham Mourie said he was probably the first true professional rugby player, a man who had a massive influence on the game and was ahead of his time. “He had a great sense of humour….and he certainly was always looking to make sure that the team was well looked after.

“At times we called him the Minister of Lurks and Perks,” Mourie said.

Descriptions for Haden’s character range from professional, to committed and uncompromising. And that attitude stretched from playing to his behaviour towards officialdom. He questioned authority, and sometimes that was needed to challenge the old, accepted ways. From the meager allowances to representation. And Haden was a champion for equality between the men’s and women’s games.

He and wife Treacha were pioneers in women’s rights in Rugby. They both played a pivotal role in encouraging administrators to include women in every aspect of the game. Also, that included the post-match function; once a bastion for the boys club but Haden encouraged his wife and those of his teammates, to join in.

He was a people person yet was both critical of actions he disagreed with, but would also champion player’s rights and welfare.

Jock Hobbs passes the ball despite being tackled by British Lion’s full-back Gwyn Evans whilst All Black Andy Haden tries to help during the 4th Test Match held at Eden Park in Auckland on 16th July 1983. New Zealand won the match 38-6 and the series 4-0. (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images).

As a player, he earned many of his Test caps during the late 1970s, to the early 1980s. Several are famous matches and series, one or two infamous – including the much-criticized 1978 test at Cardiff Arms Park. In a startling strategy, he and Frank Oliver dove out of a lineout to earn a penalty. Brian McKechnie kicked that winning goal, and earned the wrath of Welsh fans the world over.

Yet that should not be his most recognized act. Nor should the Cavaliers tour of South Africa be. His 117 games for his country should be seen as a total collection of his contribution to the long history of the All Blacks.

Manager/Agent for Super Models and Sportspeople

After his playing days ended, Haden would graduate from a journalist whose autobiography sold in excess of 75,000 copies, to becoming a representative and agent. A new journey but one the superlative speaking Haden would excel at.

Former All Black, now Rachel Hunter’s agent Andy Haden introduces Rachel to New Zealand discus thrower Beatrice Faumuina at the Pearl Of The Pacific Charity Gala Dinner. (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

His most famous client was supermodel Rachel Hunter. From a young age, Haden would represent her and with his connections and enthusiasm, the relationship is something Andy Haden could be very proud of.

He also represented sportspeople like Olympian Beatrice Faumuina, sports presenter and commentator Keith Quinn, among others. Many were present at his farewell and the majority would celebrate the accomplishments, the merits, and the contribution which Andrew Maxwell Haden left behind.

On the rugby field, he commanded his position. Authoritative but engaging so that his thoughts were always ‘team first’. Headstrong off the pitch, but a charismatic and enduring figure within New Zealand sport.

RIP: Andy Haden, 26 September 1950 – 29 July 2020 (aged 69)


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