Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The long road to goodbye

The lone ranger
Graham Henry - All Black coach 2004 - 2011

Four more days to go until the RWC 2011 is done and dusted. What are we going to do with ourselves? We've got a final to get through first but in the lull before the storm, let's spare a thought for the many influential people in the All Black set up (Brad Thorne and Wayne Smith being two particuarly) who we will be saying goodbye to on Sunday. I blog this with a slightly heavy heart (but not too heavy, because for once since 1995, we've made it to the final waa-hey!)

Graham 'Ted' Henry born 8 June 1946, Christchurch, NZ

The great redeemer. The All Black coach since 2004. The hard man with the droll humour, the raised eyebrows and cynical smile. Love him or hate him (and we have always loved him here at ruggerblogger), he is without a doubt, the greatest All Black coach New Zealand has produced. A win record of over 80%, the most successful coach in any team in any sport in the world. Any team Ted has coached has succeeded, if not at world cups, at least in their own backyards. He brought Wales back from the pits of despair and coached Auckland to numerous NPC and Super 12 (I think it was in those days) wins.

'That's sport, Sport!' Graham Henry 2007
I remember (through my tears) how Ted faced the press the day of the All Black defeat against France in 2007. He knew he was going to be in for it when he got back home (one only has to read the stories of what poor old John Hart had to endure in kiwi redneck country). But with the knowledge of a zen master, an emotional Ted shrugged his shoulders in that post match interview, 'Well, that's sport,' he said. He lives and breathes rugby, but you always got the feeling that it isn't the be all and end all for him. And he wasn't afraid to try again when many others would have cowered away, knowing what mountain they would have had to climb.

Meatheads I encountered in Queenstown (not a true likeness)
Two years ago I got into a heated debate with a group of men in a pub in Queenstown. Being a woman in her mid 30s, they weren't too pleased with me, a mere female who doesn't deserve to think she knows anything about rugby, sticking up for Graham Henry in Deans country. I actually felt a bit frightened as they rounded on me in that debate, but I stuck to my guns (even though I was quaking inside). Maybe I was silly to debate with them, telling them that Graham Henry was the man and that he was going to prove them all wrong, every test over. I mean, most of them were a bunch of psychotic meatheads. After Sunday's semi-final, I thought of those awful men and felt quite vindicated.

Actually, with Ted at the helm, I've always felt vindicated. We've won so many more than we've lost. He is an exceptional coach with an exceptional rugby mind. Of course, he has made mistakes. Sometimes he doesn't say sorry (the 'speargate' affair with Brian O'Driscoll could have been handled better) and there have of course been other times when he's riled the world rugby press. Nobody's perfect after all.

But with his headmaster ways, he is a rare old breed who has been able to manage and understand his players, as well as getting the best out of them on the field. 'Express yourself' has been his mantra. 'Play what is in front of you'. He has inspired hundreds in his long and illustrrious career. And I have no doubt that he will inspire thousands more.

Ted 1 - Deans 0
I have enjoyed every moment (apart from that 2007 quarter-final) in this All Black era with him at the helm  (and I don't blame him or rotation or Wayne Barnes for that BTW). This very blog started with him Ted ruling the roost, and I've rarely said a word against him. I'm going to bloody miss him. I wish he would stay for another four years. I think you're great Ted. Thank you so much. Good luck for the final, no matter what, you will always be one of the greats in my eyes. We're going to miss you.

Remembering Ted on ruggerblogger:

Ted's gameplan against the Wallabies

Inside the All Black jersey documentary - Graham Henry

Ted's comedy gold - Graham Henry doesn't think much of twitter

A rare bleak moment for ruggerblogger/Ted relations


Anonymous said...

Going to be weird without him - but has he gone yet? He may well stay for a yer or so, in some capacity.

Re: 2007

Not many people seem to give him credit for going into the French dressing room straight after the loss to congratulate them on their win..

That shows class & professionalism.


Nursedude said...

After the shock defeat to France in Cardiff back in 2007, I really thought that the NZRU would get rid of Henry. If the All Blacks beat France on Sunday-and I think they will, because to paraphrase Elwood Blues:"They are on a Mission from God."-Henry and the NZRU will all be vindicated.