An iconic figure in New Zealand and International Rugby, Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford is often hailed as one of the toughest to ever to play the game, and one of the most dominant in his respective position. Through his leadership, determination, and fearlessness on the field, Shelford displayed all of the characteristics that the All Blacks, rugby’s most dominant team, are most notorious for.
Buck played 48 games for the All Blacks, including 22 international tests, and led the team as its captain 31 times from 1987 to 1990. Throughout his captaincy, the All Blacks never lost a game, (drawing only once against Australia in 1988). When Buck was unceremoniously dropped from the team in 1990, there was outrage among the New Zealand rugby community. This sparked a fan-driven campaign to “Bring Back Buck”, which reflected the impact Shelford had had on the nation’s rugby culture and identity.
Buck’s contributions to New Zealand rugby culture are on display every time the All Blacks take the field. One of Shelford’s first acts upon becoming captain was to teach his teammates how to properly perform the “Ka Mate” haka, which is the All Black’s most frequently performed version of the traditional Maori (dance/war cry). Today, 30 years after Buck began his captaincy, the world-wide notoriety of the Haka highlights how Buck succeeded in putting Maori tradition at the forefront of the best and most well-known rugby team in the world.
Buck has also achieved success as a coach. In England, for the professional sides of the Saracens and Rugby Lions, and later in New Zealand, for North Harbour, North Shore, and at the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand. His coaching style, similar to his playing style, has been described as tough and uncompromising.
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