When The Crowd Stops Roaring


In June 1979 while I was working in the family Book and Toy Shop in Palmerston North, a detective walked into the shop and asked me to call into the Police Station as soon as possible. I immediately knew that something was not right. But what I did not know was how serious. I went in later that day and was ushered into an interview room where I was asked questions about the accounting books pertaining to The National Travel Association (Manawatu Branch) Inc. There were three entries they were interested in; they wanted to know where the money had gone. I confessed that I needed the funds at the time to meet personal commitments and that the money had been returned at a later date. I agreed that I had no authorisation to make the payments and I was subsequently charged with “Theft as a Servant” and discharged on bail to appear in court the following Monday. It was when they proceeded to charge me that it all started to hit home. They fingerprinted the hands that had many times reached high above the opposition to take the ball in the lineouts, accompanied by the cheers of the roaring crowd. Now they were branded criminal for life.

I walked away from the Police Station confused but still believing that this nightmare would go away. I went home and pretended that everything was alright and I told no one what had happened that day. I really felt alone and ashamed. I certainly didn’t feel that I had someone to turn for help, not the family or my lawyer, so I did what I knew best to solve the day’s problems. I just hit the bottle in a big way until I was out of it and went to sleep in drunken oblivion. I woke up the next day and went to work at the shop at the usual time and worked that day as if nothing had happened. That routine carried on for the rest of the week. But I was beginning to realise that the court appearance was not going to go away. Saturday came and I delivered the magazines to our sub agents around Terrace End district and then went back to the shop for a short while, went home for lunch ,did a couple of jobs and then went back to the shop on the pretence that I had some paperwork to do. I sat there at the desk really agitated about what I was planning to do. There was nowhere to go, nothing I could do and I couldn’t face the prospect of going to court on the Monday morning. I had to get out of this “my way” The only way out was to eliminate the problem and that was me. It was at that moment in time of sheer despair that I decided to take my own life. This would be the ultimate selfish act, thinking only of myself and not the aftermath that others would have to face and clean up. All this turmoil in my life was the result of wrong choices, bad choices that I had made over a period of 30 years. I missed the one very important lesson of life. Be content everyday with whom you are and what you have and be very grateful.

The next hours were “living hell” and I certainly never wish to go through that again. Nor do I wish anyone to get so desperate as to make the decision I made. I later found as I emerged out of the pit of despair that there is a way so long as you ask for help and firmly decide never to give up. But it is a hard road to trudge, and there are no shortcuts. It is a journey that you must take one day at a time. Each day has enough problems that require decisions, and the decisions you make determine your future.

How had I got into such a mess? What happened on that dreadful day in 1979 ? How did I journey to Wales with my youngest son Angus who took me back to reconnect me with my achievements as a rugby player and in particular as an All Black?

Let us turn back the clock and journey together through the story “When the Crowd Stops Roaring”.

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