Well-travelled Henderson keen to give back

GIVING BACK: Paul Henderson will coach Winton premier club team Midlands this season, but has no ambitions to coach the Stags.
GIVING BACK: Paul Henderson will coach Winton premier club team Midlands this season, but has no ambitions to coach the Stags.

Invercargill rugby personality Paul Henderson will coach Winton premier club team Midlands this season, but has no ambitions to coach the Stags one day.

The former All Black flanker, who played 90 games for Southland from Blues and Marist over a 14-year period (1983-1997), said he wanted to give something back to Southland rugby, particularly the good people of Winton.

Henderson confirmed he will receive a small coaching payment from the Midlands club but added he would be sponsoring both senior teams as well, which would go towards supplying meals and drinks after Tuesday and Thursday training.

"That's the least I can do for the club," he said.

The 49-year-old is now involved with real estate financing and industry products in Invercargill and Auckland.

"It was time to come home to Invercargill when I did 14 months ago and contemplate my future. I have a crib in Arrowtown that my wife Susan and I and our three daughters enjoy and I have a portfolio of investment properties in Auckland."

Henderson fashioned an outstanding three-year coaching record in Chile before returning to Invercargill.

As head coach of the Old Grangonians in Chile, his main team made the semifinals in his first year and the second tier team was undefeated.

His Grange School First XV were undefeated Chilean schoolboy champions that same year.

He coached the senior Old Grangonians team in his second year to win the Chilean championship, and the second team was again undefeated champion.

The school's Under-16 team won the South American championship, beating the top team in neighbouring Argentina.

A fourth team was also undefeated. Teams he coached in that second year won 85 of 86 games played.

The first team won the Chilean Championship in his third year when he also coached coaches.

"The multiple cities Chilean championship was probably the equivalent of our Galbraith Shield competition," he said.

Earlier in life, Nelson Mandela left an indelible impression on him when he and several All Blacks met him for a 25 minute audience at a concert for 2500 guests staged by New Zealander Dame Kiri Te Kanawa before the 1995 World Cup quarterfinals at Pretoria.

"Our attendance, which was arranged by All Black media liaison officer and former TV personality Ric Salizzo, was conditional on our sitting at the rear of the magnificent auditorium concert venue. We were in our All Black dress uniforms and were immediately marched on to the stage with seating set behind singer Kiri."

Henderson, in his "total ignorance" didn't anticipate what was to unfold. He thought the occasion was simply a case of a famous New Zealander going to sing.

"Within about 10 seconds I was almost mesmerised by Kiri's singing performance which made for a fantastic evening, particularly right on stage so close to her," he recalled.

"After her recital, Mr Mandela, who was in the crowd, asked if he could have about 30 minutes to talk with we All Blacks. We sat with the great man in a social setup and enjoyed his company greatly. He seemed so sincere and we were over-awed to be with one of the greatest ever persons who simply wanted to meet us."

Henderson remembered Glen Osborne inviting Mandela back to his marae in the North Island.

Mandela's chief of security Rory Steyn provided security for the All Blacks.

South African boxer Francois Botha was another All Blacks bodyguard.

"Meeting Mr Mandela and singer Kiri, who was a great fan of the All Blacks, was the pinnacle of my off-the-field experience in my life as an All Black. I felt so privileged to be in such exalted company," Henderson said.

The Southland Times