Martin Devlin: Is Kieran Read the greatest All Blacks number 8?

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 March 2019, 12:38PM

Kieran Read is a great player, no question about that.

But is he the greatest ever All Black number 8? The actual answer to that is there is no answer, it's all and only ever will be a matter of opinion, just another one of those silly old sporting debates that goes round and round and ends pretty much where it first began. 

Now I've been watching the All Blacks since 1975, the "water polo test" vs Scotland at Eden Park. Since then I've seen four number 8's that I'd regard as our best ever. Murray Mexted, Wayne Shelford, Zinzan Brooke and now Read.

To that list, I'll add Sir Brian Lochore.

Lochore, like Sir Colin Meads, lives on in legend. Unfortunately for him, the television coverage at that time was sporadic and so one-dimensional it's futile to use as any reliable sort of gauge on how good he was. Testimony from past team-mates alongside worldwide respect from international opponents though providing all the evidence needed.

Mex was simply spectacular. His athleticism, non-stop engine and all-round rugby acumen redefined the way the position was played - without question one of our great 8's. Wayne "Buck" Shelford was simply awesome.

His presence, physical strength and leadership intimated every opposition we played against. Buck is rock solid lock on any Mt Rushmore of AB rugby.

As for Zinzan, his skill-set dwarfed the rest. But. But his playing career IMO is also glorified way beyond what he deserves.

Brooke had it all. He could pass, kick and run the equal of any outside back. Yet his Tenure in the position wasn't nearly long enough. In 1994 vs South Africa he was immense. By 1997's draw vs England though he looked very slow and very old.

And now for Kieran the current AB captain.

Statistically, he's superior to everyone else on the list. Yet what does that really tell us apart from that we've seen from, heard of and studied him so much more than any of the others? In any reasoned debate, Kieran Read is also a great.

In any such argument, he'll always be in the equation.

In terms of whether he's our best ever, again, that can only ever be a matter of opinion.

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