In Shayne Philpott's words

IF THE CAP FITS: Ex-All Blacks back Shayne Philpott with his cap.
DEAN KOZANIC/Sunday Star-Times
IF THE CAP FITS: Ex-All Blacks back Shayne Philpott with his cap.

In his own words former All Black Shayne Philpott writes about how his critics wore him down to the extent he no longer felt proud to be an All Black.

STARTS

Rugby Career

Burnside Seniors 1985 - 1995
Canterbury 1986 -1995, 113 Matches, 500+ points.
NZ Colts 1986
NZ Sevens 1988
All Blacks 1988, 1990, 1991

In 1986 at age 20 I was selected for Canterbury while the Canterbury Cavalier All Blacks were in South Africa

In 1987 I was picked as Number 1 Fullback ahead of Robbie Deans. Also I was DB Rugby Annual's Outstanding Player for Canterbury.

In 1988 I was selected for NZ Sevens team to Hong Kong and Sydney Sevens. The team included Zinzan Brook, John Kirwan, John Schuster, Frano Botica, Terry Wright, Eric Rush and Dallas Seymour. At the Sydney Sevens first game against Samoa, I went to step off my left foot and it gave way, my left knee buckled and I got carried off. Surgery revealed I had ruptured my left ACL. My surgeon (Dr Ed Newman) thought that because I had good thigh strength and the knee appeared to be stable, it might be all right to play without a reconstruction. It took two months to get back on the field. The knee was loose. I had lost the ability to step off it. I could only manage a swerve at best. My form picked up pretty quickly though and I was called into the 1998 All Black Tour to Australia to replace the injured, Bernie McCahill. I played two matches, one at fullback and the other at 2nd 5.

Canterbury v Counties 1988 on Lancaster Park. I was passed the ball and hit in a tackle at the same time. My right knee buckled and I limped off. Surgery revealed I had ruptured my right ACL this time. Dr Newman suggested my knee might be strong enough to play on seeing as I was already playing without an ACL in my left knee. In a game of touch my knee went out again. I had an ACL reconstruction on my right knee in early 1989. I set about rebuilding my knee. I was anxious to get back on the field having tasted All Black Rugby the year before. I missed all the of 1989 season.

By the start of 1990, I was ready to go. I was fitter and faster than I had been before. An early Cantabrians pre season game confirmed that my knee was good to go for the season. However from my absence the year before Robbie Deans had been re- recruited to the team and had been made captain. It was going to be difficult to get back in at fullback. I played a few games for Canterbury in other positions then was picked for the 1990 end of year All Black Tour of France as a fullback. There was uproar from Northerners as to why Darryl Halligan and Shane Howarth hadn't been picked when I hadn't even played the year before and hadn't even played fullback that year. I wasn't too concerned. I was confident with my knee and knew my pace was pretty good. I played the midweek games but didn't break into the test team as I had hoped.

After the tour I went straight to England to play a season for Coventry. In my last game there in February 1991 I went to fly kick at the ball just as someone slammed into my right knee at the same time. The reconstructed knee buckled and I went down in a heap. I assumed the worst, that I had re ruptured the ACL. I was devastated. I returned to NZ. After a couple of weeks rest I started running again. The knee seemed ok but a bit sore. I played in an early invitation game at Rugby Park at 2nd 5 outside Grant Fox. Early on I went to accelerate, I felt something tear in my right knee and I was carried off. Surgery revealed that I had partially ruptured the reconstructed ACL and done significant damage to the cartilage. Dr Newman said that he didn't know how much longer the knee would last. I built it up again and got back on the field but had constant swelling. I was going to Dr Newman every couple of weeks to get fluid drained off the knee and cortisone injections. It wasn't feeling that good.

I was selected for the All Black Trials in 1991. The knee was ok but only about 95%. I went all right without doing anything spectacular. There was another uproar when I was picked for the 1991 Tour to Argentina. Again, because of the knee I had played hardly any rugby. I went pretty well on tour. I made reserve for the tests but never got on. All Blacks just didn't go off in those days. I scored a pretty good try in Mendoza which gained a lot of respect from the team. The knee however was getting worse. Doc Mayhew was draining it the night before every game.  

Following the tour I was reasonably happy with things. Bob Howitt wrote a bit about me that said I was an ''underrated and valuable member of the team and looking good for the World Cup''. As I had copped a bit in the media, I tended to remember things like that.

Nine weeks before the world Cup I was back for Canterbury v Waikato and feeling pretty sharp. I got tackled and landed heavily with the ball under my left arm. My left forearm was bent, I knew it was broken. X-rays confirmed this and Dr Newman inserted a steel plate with 6 screws to straighten the arm and said I would be out for 8 weeks at least. I was devastated. It appeared the World Cup dream was over. Canterbury Coach, John Phillips called me up 3 weeks after the operation and told me that if I really wanted to make the World Cup Team I would have to play that weekend against North Auckland. I knew the arm was still broken. I went to see my cousin Dave who worked at Burwood Hospital. He said he could build a plastic casing that would protect my arm. I tried it on and thought it might work. I called Dr Newman to tell him what I was doing, he said in his opinion I was making a huge mistake but if I broke it again he would fix it. In the first few minutes Warren Johnstone put up a huge bomb. I'm not sure how I caught it as the casing prevented me from moving my wrist. I got through the game pretty well and was feeling quietly confident that I had done enough to be selected, which I did the following week. There was further uproar as to why I was picked with a broken arm. Kieran Crowley had been left out. Terry Wright was Number 1 Fullback and I was number 2, although I was covering other positions as we were only allowed 26 players, I could play wing, 2nd 5 and centre if required.  

Then the crap started on TV. Andy Haden had a pretty good go at me. There were things said about my mother. Canterbury played Taranaki in New Plymouth (Kieran Crowley Country). I got booed. Coach, John Phillips described it as gutter abuse. I was copping a lot of flak from up north. We assembled for the World Cup in Auckland. I was asked to go on the Paul Holmes show with a few other World Cup Members. Paul straight out asked me, what I thought about the criticism I was getting. I replied that it didn't bother me and people were entitled to their opinions. It did bother me though. I tried to shut it out and focused on the task at hand. My arm passed the pre departure x-ray medical. Mike Brewers injured foot didn't.

The World Cup started. I was fit and ready to go. I was reserve against England in the first pool match and again reserve for the next two pool games. I was really disappointed that I didn't get to start one of those games. In the last 10 minutes against Italy Terry Wright pulled a hamstring and I was on. The only thing I vaguely remember about the game was a spilled pass by Grant Fox, which the Italians swooped on and scored. After the game I was congratulated for my first test cap but I felt pretty disappointed. I didn't start the game and I don't think I even touched the ball. I didn't feel like a cap to me.

The next game was the quarterfinal against Canada. TJ (Terry Wright) was out so this was going to be my big chance. We got to training and in the warm up I could feel my calf stiffening up. I thought I would just try to run it out. As the intensity picked up I went to sprint and I felt the calf go. There was no way I was going to be able to play. I was out for two weeks. I was devastated. The management had a quick meeting to see who else could play fullback. They put it on a couple of players and John Timu said he would give it a go and performed really well. They sent for Kieran Crowley to come over. The tour was effectively over for me. My big chance was gone.

I read a piece in the Weekend Newspaper a few years ago. The writer suggested I pranced around home in my All Black gear and (conveniently leaving out the injury) suggested that I was such a bad player that they refused to pick me for any of the World Cup games and that they sent for Kieran to come over rather than playing me.

The World Cup continued. We lost to Australia in the semifinal. I was back in the reserves for the 3rd and 4th play off against Scotland. Inga went off just before halftime and I played the game out on the wing. That was my last game for the All Blacks as it was for a few other members of that team.

I was kind of relieved in 1992 when I wasn't picked for the All Blacks. I was back for Canterbury and was Canterbury Rugby Supporters Club Player of the year. At the end of 1992 I played a season with Calvisano in Italy.

In 1994 Canterbury won the shield against Waikato and retained it against Otago in the dramatic last game of the season. One prominent journalist in a newspaper article saw fit to publicly humiliate me by suggesting I was to blame for every single point that Otago scored and the blamed me for blowing a certain try despite the fact that Chris England knocked the ball on with the line open. I wondered if he had actually watched the game. It was poor journalism and clear that he had it in for me.

At the end of 1995 my career here was effectively over. I was in constant pain with my knee. I was offered contracts to go to South Africa and Japan. I chose Japan, A/ for the money and B/ for the fact that I would only need to play 12 -15 games a year. I played five years there till my knee finally gave out. I was 35.

However the criticism continues 20 years after the All Blacks. Since returning from Japan in 2001, radio jibes and internet insults have been constant. The occasional beat ups on Talk Radio and the odd newspaper article always get back to me. Stuff written on the net about you suggesting you are crap or stuff that isn't even true. You might hear nothing for a year but then something else will come up. I've even seen blogs which suggested my mother had something to do with me getting selecting. Some idiot reckons he saw me playing golf in an All Black Tracksuit! Just crap like that.

I had more or less disassociated myself from the fact that I was ever an All Black. It was no longer a sense of pride. I am more proud of the fact that I won two club finals with Burnside and played 113 games for Canterbury. You would think a player who had played 100 games for Canterbury would be there or there abouts. The annual invitations to All Black Test match Dinners, I always threw away. Vic Simpson persuaded me to go to one five years ago. I chose to have my test cap posted to me rather than presented at a capping ceremony. I didn't want to put myself in position that would open me up to anyone having another crack at me.

When my brother Hamish texted me to say I had made the list of "coaches pets" on radio sport, which I listen to almost everyday, it really was the last straw. I was sick and tired of the constant crap that had been thrown at me over the last 20 years. I thought, "Screw it, I'll send the freaking cap to them and tell them to give it someone who deserves it". Then I thought about putting it on Trademe. I really didn't give a toss about it. I put it on at $3000 (the reserve was a lot more). I didn't know whether it would sell or not. I didn't really care. It wasn't a money thing (I made plenty in Japan) but I wasn't going to give it away for nothing either. I just thought about getting rid of it. When Dave DiSomma called from TV3, I really was shocked. I hadn't anticipated it would reach the media. I didn't think it was a big deal, it wasn't like it was John Lennon handing back his OBE. There were some kind messages of encouragement that I should keep the cap so I instantly pulled it but if Dave hadn't called, I probably would have left it on. I'm not sure if anyone would have bought it. I didn't really care.

I realise copping a bit of criticism comes with the territory and I'm not the only All Black who has ever been criticised, in fact most have. Some of us get criticised more than others. Some blogs and chat forums I have read in the last few days though just confirms how nasty some people can be, both to me and to other past and present All Blacks. I'm not sure why these haters feel like they need to bring us down. Maybe it's their way of gaining recognition by trying to bring us down to a level with them. I doubt whether a lot of these people would have even seen me play. All my All Black games were overseas and it is 16 years since I last played for Canterbury. Its clear a lot of them are just jumping on the band wagon.

I don't profess to having been a great All Black but I never doubted I was good enough to be one. There are too many accolades and awards to believe otherwise.

The last few days have totally put things into perspective. I realise the vindictive bloggers are a minority and 99 per cent of people actually respect your achievements. I no longer care about what the bloggers write. The fact that they hide behind a PC Screen and an alias says it all. Maybe one day one of them will man up and say it to my face but I doubt it. It's not worth replying to anything they write. You don't want to take yourself down to their level.
  
I would really like to sincerely thank those who wrote the hundreds of messages of support on various websites. I am pretty sure I have read them all. It's nice to know so many people are behind you and respect your achievements, whether they think you were a good All Black or not.

Shayne

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