Auckland honours NZ All Black great
09 Feb 2010
One of New Zealand’s most respected rugby stars - former All Black captain and coach, Fred "The Needle" Allen - celebrated his 90th birthday at a civic reception in Auckland.
Described as "the patriarch of New Zealand rugby" and "one of the greatest living" New Zealanders, Allen was honoured by former All Blacks and sporting heroes at a reception hosted by Auckland mayor John Banks.
Allen remains New Zealand’s only unbeaten coach in All Black history without a single defeat in 37 international games, and is also considered one of the country’s most outstanding All Black players.
Fred Allen - 'The Needle'
An inside back, Fred Allen OBE, distinguished himself as the star of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) Kiwis army team's triumphant tour of Britain in 1945 - 46.
Between 1946 and 1949 Allen played for and captained the All Blacks 26 times. But it was his skills as a motivating coach, which earned him the nickname "The Needle" and gave him greater notoriety.
Allen was selector-coach of Auckland from 1957 to 1963 and during the second half of that time the province set a new Ranfurly Shield record by holding the coveted national trophy for 25 matches.
He is the only New Zealander to have been inducted into the New Zealand Sporting Hall of Fame twice - once as the country’s most renowned coach and also as a member of the Kiwi army team.
In 2005 Allen received one of rugby's highest honours when he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in London.
In 2006 he was made a life member of the New Zealand Rugby Union.
All Black contemporaries
Honouring his 90th birthday, Fred Allen’s All Black contemporaries Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads and Sir Brian Lochore spoke of his extraordinary contribution to New Zealand rugby.
"Fred Allen's enormous contribution to our national game will never be equalled," said Sir Colin. "He is one of our greatest living New Zealanders."
"Our rugby at international level has never been the same since Fred stepped down," said Sir Brian. "We've never again known the same sort of supremacy."
Sir Wilson Whineray - another All Black skipper - described Allen as "a precious jewel in the crown of New Zealand rugby". He said Allen had a simple philosophy towards the game that was based on precision and respect.
"Kick when you are meant to kick, pass when you have to pass, play at pace and have respect for the game and the opposition."
Mr Allen's prowess has also been hailed internationally. Liverpool's legendary football manager, the late Bill Shankly shared the view of sports leaders around the world.
"I want men who will go through a wall of fire, break a leg and still come out shooting," Shankly said."That pretty well sums up Allen. He was a fearsome man to tangle with. Just ask his players."
Fred Allen said he was honoured and humbled by the civic reception.
In his day, players played not for recognition, but for the love of the game, he said.
Despite the many plaudits, including repeated congratulations from the Queen, Allen remains a very modest man renowned for his community work and ready encouragement of young sports enthusiasts.
He is an Auckland Rugby Union patron and still regularly attends matches at Eden Park.
Although he has a long association with Auckland, Allen was born in Oamaru in the South Island and first played provincial rugby for Canterbury, whom he captained. He also played for Marlborough and Waikato.
New Zealand has a long history with the sport of rugby and is now gearing up to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
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