The famed former All Blacks captain and community advocate Buck Shelford is now celebrated as Sir Wayne Shelford, in the 2021 New Zealand Queens birthday honours list.
Honoured for what he contributed on the field for his beloved Navy club, North Harbour rugby, and the grassroots game, as well for all the work Shelford continues to do in the community. Heralded as a fine example of a player who put his all into the sport, as much as he now does within his Maori culture and the broader community.
New Zealand and World Rugby have saluted his choice, as well worthy of the respect and Mana bestowed onto the 63-year-old. Congratulations have come from former teammates, from International unions, from former teams he played for, and from his peers. Like Sir Michael Jones, their respect is paramount on top of their rugby careers for the way they each carry themselves in their personal lives since ending their playing days.
Accolades have been lauded after the choice was made public on June 6, with his nomination for a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit greeted unanimously. He told NZME, “It’s a great accolade; a great honour. It’s one of those things you never think will happen – I’d never thought about it before. I’ll wear it with pride for the family and all the organizations I work with. They’ll carry that with them because they’re my biggest supporters.
Sir Wayne Shelford celebrated for his services to Rugby and the Community
He made 48 appearances (including 22 Tests) for New Zealand between 1985 and 1990, captaining the side on 31 occasions. And on those occasions, he always put the jersey ahead of himself. An impeccable record of leadership; undefeated in 14 consecutive Test matches when he ran out as skipper, the player was admired for the straight-laced style of leadership.
Buck Shelford played for Navy, for the Auckland provincial team before leading the offshoot North Harbour Rugby union, in their quest to establish a new union. It was a move that split the rugby public, yet from his fearless determination to gain respect, the aura of Wayne Shelford the person grew. He was revered, and even though at the end of his time with the New Zealand team, he did not protest openly at being dropped so suddenly, he withdrew with dignity. Such was the man’s attitude to the sport – though at many Test matches, the banner seen often read ‘Bring Back Buck’ – he was most proud for his contribution, and improved interpretation and practice of the Haka.
Many will testify that after he debuted for his country, Shelford worked tirelessly to reinvent the All Blacks institution, of the pre-match War Dance. Previously seen no more as a precursor to the game, Sir Wayne Shelford put mana back into its contribution to the spirit of the team. He honed and remodeled its use, and at the end of his career, that can be seen as one of his lasting impressions on the jersey.
A legacy built on rugby was underlined further by continuing work within the game. President of the North Shore Rugby Club, where he’s been active for over 40 years, and is also patron of New Zealand Navy Rugby, and of Māori education program, ‘Te Reo Tuatahi’, supporting Te Reo Māori in mainstream schools.
Proud of his ancestry, not only did he epitomize the pride players had when performing the haka, yet Buck Shelford was a huge figure in Māoritanga and the growing inclusiveness with which New Zealand in 2021 holds the culture.
A loyal family man, his ongoing advocacy and community work takes up the majority of his time. “You stop one project, you move on to the next one. My kids keep saying, ‘Dad, slow down’. I tell them if I can’t do it, no one is going to. When I finally retire in another 10 years or so, I will kick back a little bit.”
Sir Wayne is an ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, for which he has organized numerous fundraising activities. He also does keynote speaking and charitable auctions for organizations such as for Child Cancer Foundation, mental health, and suicide awareness programs.
While the spotlight falls on Sir Wayne Shelford now, the player and bloke who is Buck Shelford still holds to his values. He serves his community, rallies for the support of ex-servicemen, and often puts others ahead of himself. If ever there was a worthy candidate for a Knighthood, then Wayne Shelford fits that role perfectly.
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