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June 6, 2021 6 min
Most people associate Wayne "Buck" Shelford's story with his many great feats for the All Blacks.
There's the infamous scrotum injury he played on with in France, his influence injecting mana into the haka, his record-setting three-year unbeaten run as national captain and subsequent sudden axing from the team.
But while those achievements evoke pride, Shelford speaks more passionately for other causes these days, particularly those around mental and physical health.
So, today he's gratefully accepting an unexpected Knighthood for the impact the title will have in uplifting the many deserving causes he seeks to serve since retiring from rugby.
Alongside Sir Wayne, are seven other knights and dames - former tennis star Dame Ruia Mereana Morrison for services to tennis; Dame Hinewehi Mohi for services to Māori, music and television; Dame Judy Anne Kilpatrick for services to nursing education; Dame Carolyn Waugh Burns for services to ecological research, Sir William [Bill] Alexander Denny for services to medical research into cancer; artist Sir Grahame Charles Sydney for services to art; and former Fisher & Paykel chief executive Sir Michael Grenfell Daniell for services to business, healthcare and governance.
"It's a great accolade; a great honour. It's one of those things you never think will happen – I'd never thought about it before," Shelford said. "I'll wear it with pride for the family and all the organisations I work with. They'll carry that with them because they're my biggest supporters."
In a rugby context Shelford will always be a legend among men. In an old-school era where head knocks and punches often went undetected, Shelford stood tall as a gladiator.

Wayne 'Buck' Shelford in action against Romania in 1991. Photosport
It's those on-field feats that have ultimately provided the platform to speak for causes of more importance to today's communities; those including prostate cancer, child cancer, mental health and suicide awareness.
Having served 11-and-a-half years in the military Shelford remains a patron of the NZ Defence Force and Navy rugby teams, while supporting the Auckland RSA.
The 63-year-old is, in many ways, living proof hard men can and must tackle hard issues.
"We have a lot of problems out there in modern-day society with a lot of people spiralling down with their anxiety and depression and that's driving people to whakamomori [suicide]," Shelford said.
"We lost 654 people last year. That's an indictment on how life is today that people are taking their own lines. Education is a big part of it - that's what Mike King is trying to do.
"I speak not so much about mental but physical wellbeing. It's about educating people to look after their bodies a lot better, and going to the doctors on a more regular basis."
Shelford says men especially don't like seeking help when something is wrong with their body or mind.
"I've had a lot of people come up to me after I speak a year or so later and say I inspired them to go to the doctor. I know one guy who went and he was diagnosed with prostate cancer straight away.
He said 'you saved my life because I wouldn't have gone otherwise'. Those are the things that inspire you to keep doing it.
"You've got to look after yourself first before you can look after your wife and kids because who's going to look after them when you're gone?"
Despite being dropped from the All Blacks in 1990 in a decision that sparked widespread controversy, Shelford holds many fond rugby memories.
He cites his son Eruera's birth the same week he first made the All Blacks in 1985 as a late-blooming 27-year-old from the emerging players tour alongside Victor Simpson and Steve McDowell.
Claiming the 1987 World Cup on home soil, as a domineering No 8, stands out for several reasons too.
"By winning that we brought New Zealand rugby back together again after the New Zealand Cavaliers split the country down the middle. To win the first ever World Cup in New Zealand was fantastic."
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