First "All Blacks' Insights Survey"
23 June, 2004
First "All Blacks' Insights Survey" Shows Pre-School Passion Ignites The Rugby Flame
Half of the 2004 All Blacks were passionate about rugby before they could even tie their bootlaces, according to the first 'All Blacks Air New Zealand Insights Survey' released today.
Members of the current squad responded to an extensive 'Insights' questionnaire, commissioned by team sponsor Air New Zealand, which explores the psyche of a modern day All Black.
In the first of a series of four reports from the 2004 survey, today's findings look at the players' early years, examining the influences that shaped their sporting careers. It explores their childhood experiences, the impact of parents and friends and how their rugby skills developed during those critical primary and secondary school years.
What emerges most strongly is the young age at which most players displayed a passion for the game.
Although they could barely pull on their own boots, let alone do up the laces, more than half the respondents had played their first game of organised rugby by the time they were five years old. The youngest handful - 12% - were just four years old.
Across the squad, the average starting age in organised rugby was just six and a half years.
However 40% of the respondents played soccer as their first organised sport.
Parents were the pivotal force behind introducing most players to organised rugby. Only two of the players surveyed were encouraged into the game by someone other than a parent.
Although still at primary school, half the squad knew they wanted to wear the black jersey before they were 10 years old. Over the next two years, this figure rises to more than 80% of the squad respondents who were dreaming of becoming an All Black before they reached secondary school.
Only three of the All Blacks who responded started playing rugby in the position they now play. For some, the transition in playing roles following a few fast-growing teenage years was dramatic.
Lock Chris Jack, who now tops 2.02m as the tallest member of the squad, began as a midfield back which explains his flair with ball in hand. Schoolboy hooker Keith Robinson emerged some years later as a lock while new cap Jono Gibbes, who played at blindside flanker in his first test, began playing as a first five-eighth.
Budding rugby players disappointed not to make their college first XV can take heart - 17% of the squad respondents didn't achieve secondary school rugby glory either, yet went on to become All Blacks.
When not playing rugby as a youngster, cricket was the number one sport favoured by our All Blacks followed by rugby league and soccer. Interestingly, two of the squad named the solitary sport of fishing as their favourite childhood distraction away from the rugby field.
Over the next few weeks, three further reports from the 2004 All Blacks Insight Survey will be published by Air New Zealand examining the psychology of being an All Black, today's influences on the team and their thoughts on worldwide travel, both as New Zealanders and team members.