National | New Zealand Order of Merit

Nicknamed 'God' at his rugby club but new title humbling, All Black great Sir Buck Shelford says

Reflecting on his rugby career, the former All Black great Wayne (Buck) Shelford, who likes to joke from time to time, can recall a moment when he was given the nickname God.

“Most of the players down the rugby club they called me God.  But to have Sir in front of my name is very humbling and it’s something I have to get used to,” Shelford says.

“Even my grandkids will look at me like 'what, do we have to call you that?' he says.

But it’s a great honour for myself and my family and for our Māori people.”

Shelford, a former All Blacks captain, is also credited with revitalising the performance of the All Blacks' traditional "Ka Mate" haka but revealed it wasn't until his time in the military his passion grew for his taha Māori.

Shelford said, “When it came to the All Blacks in 1985, Hika Reid and I would talk about it [performing Ka Mate], let’s go and get permission first from management and players. Get the complete buy-in or we will not do it.”

"I talked to a lot of former All Blacks about performing the haka and they hated it. They didn’t like doing it, it wasn’t their culture. By teaching them about tikanga and learning a little about haka they were like oh, okay”.

"Matt Te Pou did that for many Māori All Blacks and especially those who didn’t know they’re Māori. He would investigate their whakapapa, 'here you go, here’s your tupuna'. You can play for the NZ Māori.”

The 63-year-old,  known for his fearless style of play on the rugby field first played for Auckland, North Harbour and then All Blacks. He made 48 appearances (including 22 tests) for New Zealand between 1985 and 1990, captaining them on 31 occasions.