World's best honed his skills at Rosehill College
As the goodwill messages flowed in yesterday, Kieran Read's mind drifted back to his days at Papakura's Rosehill College.
Unlike many All Blacks stars, Read, named the IRB's player of the year, didn't hone his skills at a "fashionable" rugby school.
He's a Rosehill product and proud of it.
Read, who also attended the up-market St Kentigern College on a sports scholarship for a year before telling his parents he hankered for home cooking and his mates at Rosehill, paid homage to James Fraser who was his mentor during his school days.
"He (Fraser) was massive for me at Rosehill," Read, 28, said. "I was just thinking about that when I got a couple of texts. I used to get up early and go training with him at 7am and just do one-on-one training.
"I guess, then, I was dreaming about what I am doing now and it has turned into a reality. With his work, and just the school in general, it was a big help."
Papakura-born Read, who debuted for Canterbury in 2006, should also have an acceptance speech handy tonight as another major rugby award is likely to be presented - the Kelvin R Tremain trophy at the New Zealand Rugby Union's annual black-tie bash in Auckland.
No-one has been prouder of his achievements than his parents, Terry and Marilyn, and Fraser, who still works at Rosehill.
During his school days, Read was known as the wiry white kid who was happy to rip and tear against the bigger Polynesian lads.
"I suppose you could say he was fearless," Fraser said. "If you looked at him back then there wasn't much to him - he was pretty lanky."
At Rosehill, which has a roll of around 1800 students, pupils often search for the All Black's name on the honours board.
"It's amazing the effect he still has here," Fraser says. "The kids still flock to it."
Read's father, Terry, said he had little inkling the boy kicking the ball between the goalposts on their Karaka lifestyle block would be named the world's best player.
"He's got a drive in there somewhere that seems to spur him on. He always told us that if he became an All Black he wanted to be a good one, and I suppose he has done that. It's bloody unbelievable, really."
Read, who was reunited with his wife and two young daughters in Christchurch this week after completing NZRU duties for sponsor AIG in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is looking forward to catching up with his parents when the family gathers in Taupo in the New Year.
He is also happy to lock away his boots and steer clear of rugby balls.
"It's pretty much off rugby now. I will try and get away for the next month or so with the kids, pretty much just around New Zealand.
"It's good to just be at home, cook a barbie and relax that way."
In the last eight years, the IRB award has been won by Crusaders team-mates Richie McCaw (three times) and Dan Carter (twice), France's Thierry Dusautoir, Wales' Shane Williams and South Africa's Bryan Habana. The All Blacks have claimed the team award for the past four seasons and Steve Hansen the top coach's spot for the past two.