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Legends of the Game: Zinzan Brooke
The great All Blacks number 8
Posted Jun 09, 2011 by Legends
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Zinzan Brooke made his name as one of the most skilful players of his generation, possibly one of the best the game of Rugby Union has ever seen.
Born Murray Zinzan Brooke, he made a strong impression on the world of rugby while playing for the Colts’ national side as a student at the Mahurangi College.
Brooke was the perfect number 8, combining the build and physical strength of a forward with the mobility, agility and flair of a back, which made him one of the best number 8’s to have played the game.
He made his international debut at the age off 22 in a pool match at the 1987 World Cup against Argentina, scoring a try in a 46-15 victory. His appearances over the next few years were limited due to a number of injuries, and he was unfortunate that the All Blacks’ captain at the time, Wayne Shelford, was also a number 8.
He made the breakthrough into the team on a regular basis in 1990 after Shelford was dropped by the selectors, and really rose to the top of the game in the next few years. He played as the flanker on the tour of the UK in 1993, and scored four tries against the South of Scotland, causing John Rutherford, the Scottish legend, to describe him as “the most skilful player in the world.”
He was part of the 1991 and 1995 World Cup sides, kicking a 47-metre drop goal in the ’95 tournament against England in the semi final.
Brooke continued his form into 1997, and in his 50th test match against Australia he scored two tries, but his career seemed to take a dip and his 58th and final appearance for the All Blacks came on the 6th December 1997 against England at Twickenham. The game ended 26-26, ending a winning streak for the side, and shortly after Brooke retired from international rugby, and joined the English club side Harlequins.
In 2000, New Zealand toured England and Ireland and this was the cue for Brooke to retire from professional rugby with his status as an outstanding player firmly established. On his retirement John Hart, the All Black’s coach, said: “There will never be another player like him”.
In 2007, Brooke underwent surgery to remove a blood clot in his head after allegedly falling out of a taxi in Spain, and fortunately made a full recovery.
Brooke moved into the media after his retirement, becoming part of the BBC commentary team and writing online content.