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Secrets of the rugby wags

The partners of some of our top rugby players - both past and present - share their insights into what life is like as an All Black's other half.
NZ rugby WAG

They’re in a role many other women covet, and there’s now even a term to describe them – wags. But for the wives and girlfriends of top sportsmen, life is not always as glamorous as people imagine it to be:

Casey Green

Fiancé: Ali Williams

(All Black 2002 to present)

Together since: 2005

How did you meet Ali?

We met at a friend’s party seven years ago in Auckland. It was definitely love at first sight!

How have you coped with being the one to hold the fort while he’s off playing rugby?

I’ve got great friends, and if something needs to be done around the house then my dad’s around. But I’m not scared of donning some gumboots and mowing the lawn myself. There have been times when Ali’s been away and something has gone wrong with the house. It would be nice to have him around to sort it out, but he’s off living his dream and if I’m going to stress about that kind of stuff then I would question myself.

What has it been like having a famous partner?

The attention he gets is 99% positive. It’s usually people asking for his autograph and children coming up to him, which is lovely. If we’re in a situation where he gets constant attention then we remove ourselves. I let him have the female attention. I’m an independent girl. I don’t let that stuff bother me.

What’s the best thing about him being an All Black?

The best thing is that he’s living his dream and that rubs off on me. The worst part is that when he gets into trouble the whole world knows. And he’s a six-foot-seven giant and we can’t hide him that well!

Do you have to help him keep his feet on the ground?

No, the guys are really humble. They’ve really got their heads screwed on. You’ve got to let them get excited if they’ve won a big game because they’ve got so much pressure on them.

When things don’t go so well, how do you deal with criticism of the team?

I’ve been thinking I might not read the newspaper during the Rugby World Cup! Any criticism usually comes through the media, not from the public. People are good. After the last Rugby World Cup we went to Raglan to get away and Ali had his head down. He walked past people who said, “You’re still the best team in the world,” and his head started lifting. That was good.

Have you always been a rugby fan?

I have. I always enjoyed watching the big games with my family. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the game, but I know the basics.

Verna Meads

Husband: Sir Colin Meads

(All Black 1957 to 1971)

Married: 1957

Family: Children Karen, Kelvin, Rhonda, Glynn and Shelley

How did you meet Colin?

My father and Colin’s father were close friends. We started dating when we were 17 and married four years later.

How has being married to an All Black impacted your life?

It took me from being a painfully shy young woman to a person who is much more outgoing and relaxed in her own skin. I can now speak to a group of people which was quite beyond me a few years ago.

What has it been like having a famous husband?

I sometimes felt invisible, as people would hone in on Colin. Most female fans were genuine but some weren’t. I made up my mind I would not let them influence my relationship with my husband.

What was the best thing about your husband being an All Black?

All the wonderful friends we’ve made, along with travelling with Colin later in his career. In rugby-playing countries they think Colin can walk on water, which opened doors for both of us. one of the hardest things was when he came back from those long tours and when the children were young they had to learn their father was part of the family, not some stranger who just turned up out of the blue. There was adjusting to do when he returned home as I had started to flex my independence.

Did you ever have to help your husband keep his feet on the ground?

No, Colin has always been a modest person and I don’t feel he’s ever put on airs and graces.

How did you deal with criticism of the team?

It never bothered me. I always understood everyone is entitled to their opinion and there was nothing I could do to make them change their minds.

Trecha Haden

Husband: Andy Haden

(All Black 1972 to 1985)

Married: 1974

Family: Son Christopher and daughter Laura

How did you meet Andy?

Through family. I was 18 and still at school, and Andy was a 21-year-old university student.

How has being married to an All Black impacted your life?

It has given us a good life. We had opportunities to do things we would never have got to do otherwise, such as living in France and Italy. And it has led to Andy’s business [talent agency Sporting Contacts]. I can’t imagine what life would have been like without the All Blacks.

How did you cope with holding the fort at home while he was off playing rugby?

It made me very independent, but it could be hard. The tours were very long – Andy’s first overseas tour was for four months – and there was no money for phone calls. We wrote to each other and later we sent tapes. It was harder when I had kids, but you just got on with it.

What has it been like having a famous husband?

There have definitely been bonuses to Andy having a public profile. We’ve had great opportunities – like getting to travel – that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. But sometimes it has been invasive and you feel like public property. The female fans hanging around have always been a part of All Black rugby. I said to Andy, “If I ever hear one story about anything happening, I’m out of here,” but I’ve always been able to trust him.

What was the best thing about your husband being an All Black?

The friends we’ve made and the travelling we’ve done. The worst is the criticism. Sometimes it got personal. And it was not nice getting threats after they went to play in South Africa. I remember a policeman telling me he’d put a match under the bonnet of our car so he would know if it had been tampered with. That was scary. I also had protestors coming down our driveway, which wasn’t nice.

Did you ever have to help your husband keep his feet on the ground?

No. Andy could always separate his rugby life from his home life. When he’d get home from tour I’d jokingly say, “Let me show you where the laundry and the kitchen are, there’s no room service here.” But he never expected me to wait on him – and I wouldn’t have.

How did you deal with criticism of the team?

There have been journalists who have been quite mischievous with what they wrote and when they phoned here I’d give them an earful. But there’s not a lot you can do. I think I’ve become thick-skinned over the years.

Adele Fox

Husband: Grant Fox

(All Black 1984 to 1993)

Married: 1984

Family: Son Ryan and daughter Kendall

How did you meet Grant?

In 1982, when Grant got a job at the store my father owned.

How has being married to an All Black impacted your life?

It was a wonderful part of my life. I loved it. It was very insular and everything tended to revolve around rugby, but it was for a relatively short time and there were so many bonuses – getting to go to events and meet people you would never have met otherwise.

How did you cope with holding the fort at home while he was off playing rugby?

My mum and dad were a great support. When our daughter was born, Grant had gone away on the Monday and she was born on the Thursday. He didn’t get to see her until she was six weeks old, but thankfully my parents were there to help out.

What has it been like having a famous husband?

We never thought of Grant as famous. We did get stopped sometimes when we went out, but it was usually just people wanting to talk about rugby. The worst ones were the drunks who wanted to share their opinions, but most people were great. There were always female fans around, but I’ve always trusted Grant – it was never a problem. His fan base seemed to be elderly ladies who used to send wonderful letters and cards.

What was the best thing about your husband being an All Black?

The best thing was making lifelong friends with some of the players and their families. The worst was the amount of time he was away. It always seemed that when he was away, something went wrong, like the time a storm blew over a tree and took out the fence, and the dog ran off. But you just got on with it.

Did you ever have to help your husband keep his feet on the ground?

Grant never needed help with that. His job running a sports marketing company kept him grounded and as a perfectionist, he always thought there were things he could do better. He knew that after rugby was over, he would have to come home and mow the lawn.

How did you deal with criticism of the team?

It was horrible. I took it personally and I phoned a couple of journalists after there were horrible reports in the paper. It didn’t do me any good to be honest, but I got it off my chest. Nobody was more disappointed than the team were when they lost, they were their own harshest critics.

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