Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
13 January 2015
This story is part of folklore at the Barbarians Club in Auckland, New Zealand. It is one which shows that even in the middle of a feisty rugby test match a mother's pride will still come shining through!
Back in 1930 an excellent Wellington forward Hugh McLean made the All Blacks team to play Great Britain in the third test. No one was much surprised at this as McLean had been in excellent provincial form in recent seasons and two years earlier his strength and sporting capacity had carried him into a New Zealand rowing eight. That crew was bound for the Amsterdam Summer Olympic Games. Sadly they didn't make it as funding eventually was not on hand for such a large group of men to travel so far at one time.
But 'Hughie' got his chance in 1930 to play for the All Blacks. His debut was to be on Eden Park in Auckland.
When the team assembled beforehand and McLean was handled his hallowed black playing kit he expressed surprise that he was to wear jersey number 13. His reluctance was not because of any superstition. That number had not been allocated for him in that day's match programme or in the morning newspaper. In the centre pages he was down to pull on number nine.
But you see, seniority within the All Black team ranks played its part. The crusty veteran W.E. ("Bill') Hazlett of Southland had an apparent aversion to wearing the 'unlucky' number 13. So Hazlett claimed number nine and the new kid was 'told' to wear 13.
Whether this actually bothered Hugh is not known but when the game kicked off it could have been the reason he played so superbly. The young forward in fact dashed in for two tries as New Zealand won 15-10 and took a decisive lead in the series. As the action went on everyone watching soon started talking about the new forward in the All Blacks and how well he was playing. Those were days well before TV of course so even the keenest of All Black fans only had newspaper photos of players faces to go by. Therefore the crowd soon started calling out in praise of the great game which was being played by 'Number nine Hazlett! Go Hazlett!'
Sitting in the grandstand that call irked no one more than Mrs McLean - Hugh's mother.
When her son scored his second try on his test debut she could stand it no longer. When the cheering was dying down the redoubtable Mum rose from her seat. She turned to face the crowd and in her most commanding, if not demanding voice, shouted out to all and sundry - 'That's not Hazlett! That's my boy Hughie!'
That was it! McLean went on to play for the All Blacks until 1936. Was it just desserts that after that season was over Hazlett never donned any All Black jersey again!
Note I; Hugh McLean was the brother of the prolific New Zealand rugby writer Sir Terry McLean. Hugh's role in New Zealand rugby was further enhanced when he and his co-All Black friend, the fullback Ron Bush, co-founded the New Zealand Barbarians Club in 1939.
Note II; The accompanying photograph here of the day's official programme shows Hugh McLean listed to wear jersey number nine and Bill Hazlett Number 13. The programme also shows the 'All Blacks' down to wear white jerseys. This was correct. Throughout the four-test series with Great Britain, New Zealand as hosts wore white so as not to clash with the dark blue colours of the visiting team.
The great Colin Meads plays his last game for his country on this day.
His career as an All Black had lasted 15 seasons inclusive 1957-71. It ended leading NZ to a 14-14 draw again the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park.
A Maori challenge, or war dance, which is traditionally performed by New Zealand rugby teams before their test matches. Vigorous, aggressive and intimidating, the haka was a ritual dance performed as much to fire up its proponents as to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy. In the rugby context, the haka issues to the opposition the challenge to play hard and well.
The first New Zealand team to perform the haka was the 1905–06 team in Britain. The 1928 All Black team in South Africa did the haka and the South Africans replied with a war chant of their own, being made up on the morning of the game!
New Zealanders know that when All Black teams are made up only of Pakeha players (Europeans), the haka is never performed with the vigour and feeling exhibited by Maori players.
Originally the haka was only performed by New Zealand teams when they were playing away from home, but when Scotland toured New Zealand in 1975 and later during the World Cup games in 1987, the haka was from then on always seen within New Zealand too. It is enormously popular in all the countries visited by New Zealand teams.
Who captained the All Blacks at the 1991 Rugby World Cup?