Ex-All Blacks coach says halfback had become de facto leader

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When Sir Graham Henry (Ted), Steve Hansen (Shag) and Wayne Smith (Smithy) took over coaching in 2004, All Black culture was not as expected, this Final Word excerpt shows

If Ted and Shag and Smithy were excited to be preparing the men in black for Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup challenges and an end-of-year European tour, they were soon to become disillusioned. 

To their amazement, they found they had inherited a group of rather dissatisfied individuals. 

Here was the most successful professional team in the world, with an incredible 100-year legacy, but the current players, although proud, were not enjoying the environment. The culture was not what the new coaching trio had expected it to be, with many of the players preferring to play for their franchises more than for the All Blacks. 

This was a culture Graham could not live with. 

It was something the three of them, with help from Sir Brian Lochore, were going to have to sort out if the All Blacks were to aspire to No. 1 status in the world again. 

Another matter that had Graham bemused from the start was the influence Justin Marshall was exerting on the team.
Graham found that Marshall was the most influential individual in the team. He talked the most and had become the team’s unofficial leader. 

In fact, he talked so much, not many others got the opportunity to say anything at all. 

He was the captain, Graham perceived, in all senses bar the title. 

The JM show, through no fault of Marshall’s, had obviously been permitted to develop to the point where he virtually 
ran the team, on the field and off. 

Graham could see that Marshall was possessed of a huge motor and great pride in his ability to play well game after game. 

Single-handedly, he had swung the course of more than a few All Black matches since his debut in 1995. 

At 30, like [captain Tana] Umaga, he still had plenty to offer, but Graham didn’t see how they could develop other leaders as part of the collective leadership philosophy with Justin in the team. 

  • Graham Henry: Final Word, by Bob Howitt, published by HarperCollins New Zealand

Have lunch with ‘Ted’
What: Luncheon with Rugby World Cup-winning ex-All Black coach Sir Graham Henry
Where: The Shed, Northburn Station, Cromwell
When: Tuesday, 1pm
Cost: $45 (includes Northburn’s rugby pie lunch and Henry talk)
Tickets: from Paper Plus in Cromwell, Alexandra, Queenstown and Wanaka
Proceeds: Go to Cure Kids charity

 

‘The JM Show’ responds to the claims in ex-All Black coach Henry’s new book

Mountain Scene asked Queenstown-based former All Black halfback Justin Marshall for his take. 

Mountain Scene: Were you the de facto leader as Henry says, was it the JM show? 

Justin Marshall: I guess he’s kind of right because Tana wasn’t a natural talker. When you’re in a decision-making role you’re heavily involved in tactics and as halfback you do tend to talk. And I was a very much player who needed to be sure the players around me were functioning. I wanted the forwards to be functioning well and backs to be functioning well because it helped my game.
I guess that wouldn’t be a comment that would be out of line. I’d been in the All Blacks for 10 years at that stage. I was a senior All Black, probably the most senior All Black there, I was more senior than Tana. So yes, I can’t disagree with that. 

I did have a lot to say because basically our captain didn’t really – he led by example and I think everybody knows that. 

MS: Was the team dissatisfied? 

JM: Not really. I can’t speak for others and they may have spoken to others and got that vibe from them but I loved being an All Black from 2003 onwards … I tell a lie, from 1999 onwards. I got to the end of the World Cup in 1999 where I got benched and we lost that World Cup [semi-final to France]. I was in a bad place and I was a bit disillusioned with All Black rugby at that stage. But I came out from 2000 onwards and thought I’m bloody lucky to be an All Black and wanted to honour the privilege and just play the game because I love it – it’s what turned me into an All Black and what turned me into a pro. And I thought if they don’t select me for the All Blacks then so be it, and I’m moving forwards. It helped me have a new refreshed attitude towards the game and towards being an All Black. 

I certainly didn’t feel [dissatisfied]. I was probably at the other extreme, more motivated to be an All Black. 

MS: Did you feel you were on the outer when Henry arrived? 

JM: He didn’t dislike me but I certainly felt he had some other thoughts, other ideas, about how I was going to fit into his future plans. I got that feeling. I was playing some pretty good rugby around the time and to be left out of that end-of-year tour was a bit of a disappointment but it wasn’t a bad thing. He explained it quite well to me. I was disappointed as any All Black would be when you get left behind but I understood. But it reinvigorated and re-motivated me. I’m a competitive person and I thought ‘Right I’m just going to work really hard to prove you wrong and that I still have something to offer’.