More so today, when fans see players making the game of rugby union their career, the numbers of matches played are steadily rising. With the combination of International tests added to professional franchise/club teams, more and more players joining an exclusive club; with 300 First Class rugby games to their names.
In the same way that the appetite for rugby has grown, so that it now runs from February to the end of November, so the numbers stack up for the very best. The men who begin to shine brightly, and are given more opportunities. So from the grassroots level, from childhood through the school grades, and club rugby. Ascending to provincial footy, and then up to the professional level.
For most, the step up to representing their nation brings more recognition, and as well, more games played than ever before.
The numbers are increasing year-on-year, no doubt about it. And the names who have been added to one of the more exclusive clubs, include many of the longest and most gloried New Zealand rugby players.
300 First Class Rugby Games – an Exclusive NZ Rugby Club
To achieve 300 first class rugby games, takes an investment. Not only in practice, to develop the skills base that means you can perform for an extended period of time. But it is a longevity in the game.
The men listed below have each showed tremendous consistency. That is from representing their province, and then to [post-1996] their professional franchise/club. And then to being selected to play for their country – for the majority, this is the apex of the sport.
And some have represented their national team over 100 times alone.
The men who are part of an Exclusive ‘300 Club’
Sitting at the pinnacle currently, is former-All Black, Keven Mealamu [MNZM]. A two-time Rugby World Cup winner, Mealamu is an fine example of the rugby-values and mana, that this full list of players all hold.
Known for his nuggety play, he began that first class career as an Auckland provincial player in 2000. Over the next 15 seasons, he would demonstrate his ability and integrity on and off the field. Keven Mealamu (see main picture) played for and captained the Blues in Super Rugby, being the first player to amass over 150 Super games. Playing over 100 times for the All Blacks, he has been the measure for all modern professional players to model themselves on.
Mealamu is now a rugby ambassador for the NZ Rugby union, heading programmes of player welfare, participating in the ‘Respect and Responsibility’ panel and becoming a respected member of the rugby fraternity. His tally of 384 games placed him just above Sir Colin Meads.
The legendary All Black – who passed away in 2017 – making his claim for 300 first class rugby games in the amateur era. Many will ask the question ‘how could he have played so much rugby?’
Sir Colin Meads – the Chairman of the ‘300 Club’
‘Pinetree’ was a rugged lock, and his incredible 361 games was a tribute to his stamina. That was due to his longevity; first playing in 1955, Meads was still playing first class games in 1973. His 139 caps for King Country, demonstrated his affection for the grassroots.
But it was on the International scene, where he grew famous. 133 games, including 55 tests, was up until 2013, the record for the All Blacks (1957-71). Only surpassed by Richie McCaw [in tests alone] Sir Colin will retain his place in the game, for the commitment he showed during his playing years, and in his resolve to maintain that idolized position after his retirement.
The names that sit alongside Mealamu and Meads, are many of the finest players produced in New Zealand. While the majority have played within the last 40 years, in a period that coincides with a rise in scheduled test matches, that pre-dates the professional era.
The 1980’s and 1990’s brought a consistency in selection, so players like Sean Fitzpatrick, Richard Loe, Gary Whetton, Grant Fox and Zinzan Brooke playing long periods of provincial and International matches–often playing for their province against touring International sides.
And while the modern players will add over a dozen or more games per year of Super Rugby, names on the list who never enjoyed the professional era, showed their high levels of ‘professionalism’. Fergie McCormick, over a career spanning 20 seasons, showed phenomenal consistency in selection for Canterbury. Making a record 222 appearances for the union, between 1958 and 1975, he commands a place for that achievement alone.
2000-Present – the Modern Athlete
Two more names appear on the list, who have enjoyed the advantages of the modern era. One who is always on the tip of All Black fans, is Richie McCaw. Know simply as the most capped All Black ever, his accomplishments encompassed a natural talent that was committed to the sport. To not only be an All Black, but to be more.
McCaw recalled in the documentary Chasing Great “My uncle asked me what I wanted to be. An ‘All Black’ I said, but he told me that I should write down, that I should try to be a great All Black. I was too shy to write it out, so just signed it G.A.B” The humbled boy from Kurow would go on to ensure that his name would sit high on the list of All Blacks, and International rugby players.
Richie McCaw, alongside Mealamu and Tony Woodcock (the sole try scorer in the 2011 World Cup final) were part of an influx of players that would set the standard for the next 15 years. That group included several players from the Crusaders, the most successful Super Rugby franchise [with eight championships]. Included in that era of multiple titles, is Wyatt Crockett.
Still playing today, Crockett made his first class debut in 2006 and has now set the new record of 191 games….and counting. In his final season with the Crusaders, he looks set to play 200 game [depending on form]. An incredible demonstration of consistency and application, it will take a dedicated individual to break that record.
And that is why men like Crockett and others, have written their names into the rarefied place of amounting 300 first class rugby games. In comparable sports, the same number in League, Football or Cricket would all show levels of commitment and sustained performance, that only a few can deliver.
They have all invested time in the game, and all served that game with respect, and veneration for that effort. They deserve to be a part, of this exclusive club. 300 games, and some.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images