Pay the lads right, says elderly All Black
Wally Argus, the oldest living All Black, reckons the current breed deserve every dollar they are awarded.
The recent passing of close friend and former All Blacks team-mate Bob Scott means Argus, 91, carries the torch as our most senior international.
When the former market gardener watches Richie McCaw's men squeeze their bodies through the grinder he believes they have earned the right to a decent payday. "I think it is tougher now than when we played. Good luck to them," Argus, an ex-wing noted for his size in his prime, said.
"Although they are getting well paid, they deserve it. In our day we got six or seven shillings a day. It was a pittance really but we had a good time."
His memories of the games he played - four tests against Australia in 1946 and 1947 and 17 appearances for the touring "Kiwis" following World War II - are sharp. So too are his recollections of those he played alongside.
Among them were Johnny Smith, Charlie Saxton, Ron Elvidge and Scott - the famous fullback whom he swapped best man duties with.
"Bob was one of the best I played alongside. In those days, the wings had to back up your fullback but he wasn't having any of that. Bob would say, ‘Get out of my territory - I will look after this'."
He recalled the skills of Smith, a strong running and powerful centre.
"He was marvellous, a cracker. He gave me tries he could have scored himself sometimes."
Argus, who specialised on playing on the left flank, first represented Canterbury in 1941 and, after serving in the war, where he drove trucks alongside Scott in the Middle East and Italy, he returned to New Zealand to win his first All Blacks cap against the Wallabies in Dunedin in 1946.
It was a memorable debut; he scored two tries. When the All Blacks toured Australia the following year, they travelled by flying boat. He scored in both tests and was the leading try scorer on tour.
Smith was so impressed that his next child, a daughter, had Argus as her second name.
For business and family reasons Argus made himself unavailable for the 1949 tour of South Africa.
"In those days you went there and back by boat and you were probably away for about six months. I had a daughter on the way and you didn't get paid in those days."
Still a keen follower of the All Blacks, he praised England for their recent shock win at Twickenham. "I still enjoyed it, even though we lost. England played well and I don't think it will do the All Blacks any harm."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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