Memories are made of this

21:27, Nov 07 2012
DOG LOVER: Sir Fred’s pockets were often full of biscuit crumbs because he would give biscuits to dogs at places he visited. He’s with his dog Georgia, a jack russell.

No other private home in New Zealand held a more remarkable collection of treasured rugby mementoes than that of legendary All Black Sir Fred Allen at Whangaparaoa.

That was an immense bonus for my co-author friend Alan Sayers and me during our research for his biography - Fred the Needle, the Untold Story - published last year.

Sir Fred had generously given us the key to the house so that we could search for material whether or not he was at home. This was where tactics which won the All Blacks global glory had been created.

Strategies devised here made Fred Allen OBE the only unbeaten coach in the proud history of the All Blacks. He also played in 21 international games and was captain six times between 1946 and 1949.

It was also here that Sir Fred, keen to promote team morale, brought the iconic team for days of training on Manly beach before the arduous but memorably triumphant UK tour of 1967.

Those who bunked down on mattresses included legendary greats Sir Brian Lochore, Sir Colin Meads, Chris Laidlaw, Sid Going, Kel Tremain, Earle Kirton, Ian Kirkpatrick and Waka Nathan.


Until Sir Fred died at 92 in April, three years after his wife Norma, this fine house overlooking Hauraki Bay remained a favourite meeting house for many revered All Blacks.

They enjoyed chinking glasses with him and reminiscing on past victories and occasionally there'd be a great crowd enjoying a lively party.

Now this Allen home, the birthplace of numerous rugby news stories is about to become the news. On November 15 it will be auctioned by Bayleys Orewa.

When Sir Fred handed Alan Sayers and myself the key he said: "Feel free to help yourselves, boys. There's stacks of information here but I'm afraid some of it's in a bit of a muddle."

It was, in fact, a truly daunting muddle - particularly in the vast basement garage which, because it contained so many valuable surprises, we privately called Aladdin's Cave. There were suitcases and sea-chests, wooden boxes and cardboard cartons piled high all around the walls - jam-packed with old photographs, letters and newspaper cuttings.

We were thrilled in particular by those cuttings.

They went back to the 1960s and were from around the world. From England and France, United States, South Africa and Germany. From almost everywhere including, I suspect, many countries he'd never visited. In his day, he was revered around the globe.

We learned a great deal for the biography from those cuttings. But what gave us an even deeper insight into this remarkable man was a handwritten note he kept in his wallet.

"The real value of sport lies not in the actual game played in the limelight of applause but in the hours of dogged determination and self-discipline carried out alone and supervised by an exacting conscience. The applause dies away, the prize is left behind, but the character you build is yours forever."

Rodney Times