New Zealand mourn Graham loss

Former All Blacks captain, rugby administrator and mentor Sir John Graham has died at the age of 82 after a short illness.

Graham, affectionately known as DJ, won 53 caps for New Zealand and captained the All Blacks 10 times.

After retirement, he returned to his previous profession as an educator and became headmaster at Auckland Grammar, where he would stay for 21 years.

He even managed the New Zealand cricket team before taking up a role as president of New Zealand Rugby.

Graham was highly influential in shaping the careers of All Black players and coaches coming through the ranks. Fellow knight Sir Graham Henry has famously paid tribute to Graham for mentoring him along the way to becoming an All Black world-cup winning coach.

Graham taught Henry at Christchurch Boys' high school and was later his coach at Old Boys rugby club and was a constant source of knowledge, advice and inspiration to Henry.

Perhaps Graham is best known for his outspoken criticism of the apartheid regime which he expressed when the All Blacks toured South Africa in 1960. And when South Africa played in New Zealand in 1981, Graham refused to attend matches.

And New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew has paid tribute to Graham.

“DJ was a great all-round New Zealander,” said Tew. “From his exploits on the rugby field to those in the classroom he was simply exceptional, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Sheila and the rest of his family.

“His commitment to all aspects of the game and New Zealand society is legendary. He was a player, coach and administrator of rugby and also managed the New Zealand cricket team. Equal to his sporting achievements was his academic contribution driven by a lifelong commitment to the transformative power of education.

“He was an early member of the Rugby Foundation which looks after severely injured players. His ongoing dedication to those players speaks volumes of the kind of man he was.

“DJ was a person I feel extremely privileged to have met. He was a leader in every endeavour he turned to, and his long list of honours and achievements are testaments to his exceptional character.”