Israel Dagg’s retirement to a persistent knee injury at just 30 years of age, will be a huge loss to the game of rugby.
In a day and age of structure, suffocating defences and kick and chases, Dagg was anything but. Super Rugby star, International-class outside back and a ‘maverick’ due to an outgoing personality, Dagg has had a magnificent career [cut short by ongoing fitness issues that led to his retirement announcement on Instagram].
At his best, Israel Dagg had the outrageous talent of another All Black great, Christian Cullen, having that priceless ability to ‘create something out of nothing’.
The All Blacks have always run a production line of quality full backs since the game turned professional. Christian Cullen, the princely Paekakariki Express, was criminally ‘binned’ for the 2003 World Cup but was arguably the best player on the planet for 5 years beforehand. Mils Muliaina was an outstanding back three man, mixing brute power with typical New Zealand skill.
From Dagg’s debut game for the Highlanders in 2009, to his meteoric rise to the All Blacks, he delighted many. Reaching great highs; including multiple Bledisloe Cup wins and the momentous 2017 British and Irish Lions tour, he has entertained fans around the rugby-globe.
Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, we could only marvel at what the likes of Israel Dagg could produce. Cometh the moment – and a World Cup on home soil in New Zealand was a most definitely a moment – cometh the man.
At the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Dagg was without peer and the best player of the tournament. The All Blacks weren’t at their best in that campaign like a lot of teams but Dagg was exceptional. His ridiculous offload to create Ma’a Nonu’s try in the semi-final against the Wallabies was sublime.
He was a wonderful maverick for the All Blacks, Otago Highlanders, Canterbury Crusaders, and his beloved Hawke’s Bay Magpies. A comparison to a sports car might be found, although for his class and ability, some might say that Israel Dagg was a Rolls Royce, in a market too often full of similar models.
There was never anything ‘similar’ about that way that this admired rugby player displayed his skill, and character on and off the pitch.
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