Rugby Championship

Bender? Nuggy? Welcome to the world of All Blacks nicknames!

2017-09-04 08:45
Aaron Smith (File)

Cape Town - Baffled by Bender? Non-plussed by Nuggy? Welcome to the arcane world of All Black nicknames!

According to the Stuff website, coach Steve "Shag" Hansen had some non-rugby television viewers baffled when he referred to "Bender" and "Nuggy" at a post-Bledisloe Cup Test media conference in Dunedin.

Don't be alarmed - it's the rugby world's way of differentiating between the Smiths in the All Blacks' backline.

"Bender" is an obvious play on fullback Ben Smith's name. "Nuggy" (short for Nugget) is scrumhalf Aaron Smith's long-standing moniker from his Manawatu days.

Three Smiths adorned the All Blacks' backs division at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. "Snake" was the third - Hurricanes centre Conrad Smith copped the reptilian reference from his schoolboy cricket coach who felt the Taranaki tyro's fielding technique resembled a snake slithering in the grass.

Obvious or unimaginative nicknames abound in most New Zealand communities or workplaces - and the All Blacks' camp is no different.

Hence lock captain Kieran Read is "Reado", Sam Whitelock and flank Sam Cane both answer to "Sammy", Sonny Bill Williams to "Sonny", hooker Dane Coles to "Colesy", prop Owen Franks to "Owie" and star playmaker Beauden Barrett to "Beaudy".

We can only guess at why former World Player of the Year lock Brodie Retallick is dubbed "Guzzler" - perhaps because he gets through a lot of petrol in the tank with his high energy rate?

"Beaudy" may be the natural diminutive for Beauden Barrett, but he's bestowed more colourful tags on his two younger brothers and All Blacks team-mates.

Jordie - who is used to "Bub" around the family farm - is now "Udon" because,  as older brother Beaudy told the world's rugby media during the Lions tour: "He's a skinny white noodle".

Middle brother Scott Barrett, the All Blacks Test lock, is "Lloyd" after Lloyd Christmas, a character from Jim Carrey's 1994 movie, Dumb and Dumber.

Jordie Barrett said he'd been too scared to call his senior sibling anything other than "Beaudy".

"There would be repercussions if I called him something else, so I will just stick with Beauden or Beaudy."

The trio's father is Kevin "Smiley" Barrett, a former Taranaki and Hurricanes forward.

None of the current All Blacks' nicknames are anywhere near as emblematic as "Pinetree" (Colin Meads), "Grizz (Alex Wyllie) or "Buck" (Wayne Shelford).

Hansen was reputedly christened "Shag" by New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew when the pair worked together in Canterbury some 20 years ago.

Hansen had a habit of greeting everyone he met with "Gidday, Shag" - so Tew turned the tables and the label stuck to the dry-witted coach like mud to rugby boots.

Now with the All Blacks, "Shag" works with "Smithy" (also known as "The Professor" for his statistical bent), "Fossie" (Ian Foster), "Crono" (Mike Cron) and "Shandy" (manager Darren Shand).

It's hard to shed a label once it's been affixed. Ask former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry. He's been known as "Ted" for over 50 years.

"When I was 13 I was a cricket fanatic," Henry once told the CineAddicts website. 

"I'm a bit obsessive you see ... The Canterbury scorer was a man by the name of Ted Delahunty. They used to play at Lancaster Park. I used to go watch them play. Sometimes I had my own scorebook. So he asked if I would run the scoreboard.

"When there were Test matches on at Lancaster Park, I used to keep score. And the guys used to call me Young Ted'. After a while the 'young' got dropped."

One of the more memorable monikers of recent rugby times belonged to All Blacks hooker Anton Oliver - known to his mates as "Hatch" - short for "Hatchet Head" in apparent reference to his cranial shape.

That was an improvement on "Creature", the nickname he sported in his early career with Otago, which prompted a national sports magazine to famously begin a profile with: "Creature - son of Filth", Filth being Oliver's ex-All Black father, Frank.

His Highlanders and All Blacks colleague, Jeff Wilson, was known as "Goldie" - short for the Golden One.

Anton Oliver played in an All Blacks era with "Kamo" (lock Ian Jones, who was named after his Northland club - in a similar way to cricketer Lance Cairns became "Springers" because he played for Spring Creek in the Marlborough competition).

Super Rugby title winning coach Scott "Razor" Robertson played in a Crusaders squad replete with prosaic nicknames like "Marshy", "Mehrts", "Maxy" and "Hammer".

"He ran a one-two cut with the Brumbies, and I got him on the right shoulder," Robertson told Stuff sports columnist Phil Gifford in 2017. 

"The boys talked about me cutting him in half. Like it was a blade. Then the name sort of evolved from that.

"My immediate family still call me Scott, but I have people in the street call me Razor." He laughs. "I think people use it fondly, so I'm happy about that."

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