I had an entirely different column planned for this week but then Christchurch happened and my thoughts turned to New Zealand, my many friends across the ditch and why I love the place. So, here goes.
Firstly, from somebody with an intense enthusiasm for music but who cannot carry a tune in a bucket, I've never met a Kiwi who couldn't sing. Why is that I wonder?
Secondly? I've played the New Zealanders on four occasions on four rugby league fields and beaten them every time. They're such a friendly bunch. How could you not love them?
My first encounter with the Haka mob was extremely memorable. It was July 4, 1972, a Tuesday afternoon, and it was freezing. Bone-chillingly cold at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan.
Believe it or not the dressing room had a sauna in it! Well, ours did. The visitors' shed was lucky to have showers let alone hot ones.
I was playing for NSW Country and as I dressed for the match it was one of only two times in my playing career that I wore a t-shirt under my jersey. The spectators on the hill were burning fires in the 44 gallon drum garbage bins in fairly fruitless attempts at keeping warm.
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Ideal conditions for the visitors you could be forgiven for thinking.
We beat them 26 - 10. Probably not the result they were hoping for in their lead-up to the first test against Australia.
There remains an interesting quirk to this Country victory, if you'll bear with me for a bit.
England toured Australia in 1970 and won the series. New Zealand went to England in 1971 and beat them there, making the Kiwi side that came to Australia in 1972 the number one ranked side in the world.
So our Country side, at Queanbeyan, beat the number one side in the world. Now, as far as I know, Country never again played another international match, which means, theoretically, the 1972 Country team have remained the undefeated world champions (tongue fairly firmly in cheek here).
Moving on two years and I next met the Kiwis on their home turf with the Country tour of 1974. We played South Island in Christchurch and despite a jaw-droppingly one-sided penalty count we managed a victory. At the after game function I approached the referee and said, 'You gave us a fair towelling with the whistle today.'
I've never forgotten his response: "It's alright for you," he said. "You leave in the morning. I have to live here."
We went on to next beat Wellington at Windy Wellington (the second and last time I wore a T-shirt under my jersey) before capping the tour with a win over Auckland at Carlaw Park, which is a fair achievement for anybody.
But, excuse the nostalgic digression - I have strayed from what I really wanted to talk about, which is the lesser known but vital role that New Zealand played in establishing the great game of Rugby League itself.
As we know, the beginnings of Rugby League arose amongst the coal miners of Northern England. The staunchly amateur Rugby Union was fighting the move towards professionalism tooth and nail and so the breakaway League was formed as players decided they wanted to be paid.
The game then changed in that the new competition realised that in order to generate sufficient funds to continue they would be relying on the gate and so needed to change the rules in order to make the game more spectator friendly. The necessary changes were made to the new code and that is why Rugby League became, and remains, by far the superior game.
Importantly, the same process was occurring in New Zealand and was brought to a head in the aftermath of the international tour of the original 'All Blacks' in 1905. The All Blacks won 34 out of 35 games and outscored their opponents by 976 to 59. The tour was tremendously successful, netting a profit of £12,000, which the players, as amateurs, saw next to nothing of. They were paid three shillings a day with no compensation for work missed. They were less than impressed.
Enter one Albert Henry Baskerville, an enterprising Wellington rugby player who, sensing the mood of things and an opportunity, quit his job in the Wellington Postal Department and took to organising a professional New Zealand rugby tour of Great Britain.
It was highly controversial. Baskerville received a life-time banning from the New Zealand Rugby Union for his efforts, but the players, including a few from the previous All Blacks tour, were keen. Things got fairly nasty. The team was dubbed 'The All-Golds' in a derogatory parody of the All Blacks - the implication being that they were doing it for the money.
But despite all this the tour went ahead in 1907 and was a resounding success with the players being paid properly for the first time ever.
The most important aspect to the tour though was that it gave, for the first time, the prestige of internationality to the League in England, thus cementing its existence in what had been, until then, a pretty precarious situation. Without the touring New Zealanders - who knows?
The tour is notable for two other oddities. The first being that somehow Australia's Dally Messenger was recruited to play for the All Golds. Played the whole tour. The circumstances for how this came about are extremely murky at this distance, but it happened. You'd have to consider that he would have been very, very good for the gate.
The other bit of weirdness was the fate of the tour organiser Albert Baskerville. Baskerville had been too occupied with the administration to really do any playing, but on the side's homeward leg of the tour through Australia he took to the field on the wing against Sydney.
Scored a try. Afterwards, Baskerville, despite having survived winter in Rochdale, Hull and Mythyr Tydfil, somehow caught pneumonia on the ship to Brisbane for the next match. He was taken to hospital but died a few days later. He was 25 years old.