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Wayne Shelford - legend for club and country

Buck Shelford - legend © Getty Images

Club News Wayne Shelford - legend for club and country

Wayne Shelford is returning to the Gardens on Thursday, November 14th in the next of the club's 'An Audience With...' series. But why is he so revered not just in Northampton, but also in his native New Zealand?

Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford was quite possibly the one player who symbolised the magnitude of the Northampton Saints revolution of the late 1980s and early 90s. The signing of the former All Black captain was a real coup for the club, as he was still then one of the highest-profile players in the world.

And yet his capture shows how different things were in the amateur era, achieved as it was over a couple of beers in Llanelli during New Zealand’s undefeated British tour of 1989. Shelford arrived in the October of 1990 at the end of the New Zealand domestic season, just in time to watch the newly promoted Saints suffer a 60-0 hammering by Orrell.

However, the Kiwi’s influence was such that by mid-April 1991 First Division survival and a Pilkington Cup final place had both been achieved – made all the sweeter by the semi-final’s 18-10 victory over the same side who had inflicted that earlier humiliation. Unfortunately Shelford missed the final in an abortive attempt to win back his international place for the upcoming World Cup. His presence was missed as Saints went down 25-13 to Harlequins.

Shelford might not have been the same dynamic player who helped New Zealand win the inaugural World Cup in 1987. Nevertheless the leadership qualities that helped him never be beaten as an All Black captain, and be instrumental in the establishment of the North Harbour union in 1985, were still very much clear.

After his 1991 World Cup media commitments were over, Shelford returned to the Gardens in time to face Orrell in Division One. Unlike the previous season Saints overcame the Lancastrians to start an eight-match winning streak – including memorable victories over Gloucester and Leicester away – that took them to the top of the league.

Defeat at Nottingham, and results elsewhere, ruined title ambitions. However it was still a record season with the 1,000-point barrier smashed for the first time. The season also saw the emergence of Tim Rodber and Martin Bayfield from the ‘Wayne Shelford School of Excellence’ that the Saints pack had become.

Shelford left Northampton in 1993. Since then he has coached at North Harbour and Saracens, amongst others. But his presence is still very much evident at Franklin’s Gardens thanks to his massive portrait by Geoff Stalker, hanging – appropriately enough – in the ground’s ‘Heroes Bar’.

Tickets for 'An Audience With...Wayne Shelford' can be booked online 24/7 by CLICKING HERE and following the straightforward instructions. The evening includes a hot fork buffet.

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