Sir Graham Henry was the coach of the All Blacks when they won the Rugby World Cup for the second time in 2011 and had a long pedigree in coaching before that.
Born in Canterbury, Graham played rugby for the province, as well as representing Otago and Canterbury in cricket. But it was in coaching that he made his biggest impact. Starting out in club coaching he began his climb up the ranks when taking on the New Zealand Schoolboys in the early 1980s and then was appointed Auckland coach in 1992, a position he held until 1997. When rugby went professional in 1996 he also coached the Blues who won the Super Rugby title in 1996 and 1997.
He left New Zealand in 1998 to take up the position of Wales coach who achieved 11 consecutive wins in 1999. Selected as British and Irish Lions coach for their 2001 tour to Australia, he then had one more season with Wales. Following his return to New Zealand renewed his contact with the Blues working as defence coach in the side that won the 2003 Super 12 title.
"Canterbury sporting teams have done exceptionally well over the years and they have had a big input into international teams so sport is very important."
"I grew up in Christchurch, went to Christchurch Boys' High and loved playing sport down there and I've been back a number of times. I get down there quite a bit and I see the old club play which is High School Old Boys with some old mates. The standard and the expectation of club rugby down there is very good. There is a link with the past so they maintain standards, like the boys go along in their No.1s to rugby as a club XV. I think that is quite special so they've maintained that high standard of club rugby in Christchurch."
Tradition is a big factor but more recently the introduction of the Press Cup, contested among all the secondary schools in the Crusaders franchise area, has done much for the game.
That tradition will ensure Golden Oldies visitors will get a great welcome and be able to experience some of the flavour of rugby in Christchurch, while bringing some of their own special camaraderie, something Sir Graham admires about the game.
"I've been lucky enough to go to a few World Cups and experience the camaraderie among people from all different nations. I remember at the World Cup last year the Scots were playing the Japanese and they were having a dram together before the game and had arms around each-others' shoulders."
"The camaraderie among rugby people all around the world is fantastic and you don't see that in very many sports and this [Golden Oldies] is an example of it, and a continuation of it with guys playing against others from all different countries, enjoying each-others' company and learning from each other. I think it builds respect and tolerance and all those things and is much more important than the game itself I think. It's special," he said.
An archetypal Canterbury son in the mould of legends who preceded him like Alex Wyllie, Tiny Hill, Dennis Young et al, Todd Blackadder has carved his own niche on the local rugby scene.
Born at Rangiora, the 12-Test All Black, who also captained the side, made 126 appearances in the national provincial championship for Canterbury over 12 seasons while he also made 71 appearances for the Crusaders captaining them to a hat-trick of Super Rugby title wins in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Blackadder was also a member of the first New Zealand Sevens team at the World Sevens Cup.
After a period playing professional rugby in Scotland where he captained the Edinburgh Gunners and made 41 appearances for the side, he started his coaching career in Scotland at both club and international level before returning to New Zealand as director of rugby, then coach, for the Tasman Union before moving into the Crusaders structure, initially as a assistant coach but then as head coach at the end of the 2008 campaign.
Head coach at the Crusaders for 8 years, Todd was involved in and oversaw the playing careers of a steady stream of outstanding players who successfully represented both their province and New Zealand. A well respected and knowledgeable player, captain and coach, Todd is looking forward to welcoming Golden Oldies Rugby players, officials and supporters to Canterbury-one of the strongest nurseries for outstanding rugby players.
“Looking forward to being at the Christchurch Golden Oldies Rugby Festival in April 2018. A great place to play rugby with enormous rugby traditions. You can all be assured of a great time and a wonderful experience.”
Todd is now the head coach of the English Premiership Side Bath.
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