Zinzan Brooke

Zinzan Brooke, though in the twilight of his illustrious career as one of New Zealand’s greatest No 8s, had the distinction of leading the Blues to their first two championship wins in 1996-97, playing with his trademark flair and flamboyance, despite beginning to battle age and injuries which caused him to miss some games. He made 22 appearances in all for the franchise.

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Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick, the great All Black hooker and captain, was as tireless as ever in the first two seasons of the Super 12, to such an extent his understudy, Andrew Roose, didn’t take the field in 1996 at all and in three appearances in 1997 started just once. Fitzpatrick was also an ideal stand-in captain when Brooke was injured.

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Michael Jones

Michael Jones, another of Auckland’s most legendary players who, like Brooke and Fitzpatrick, was a veteran when the Super 12 started. But the great loose forward managed 36 matches in 1996-99. He was captain in 1998 and will be remembered for his intercept try in the 1998 final which clinched victory against the Brumbies.

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Robin Brooke

Robin Brooke played some outstanding rugby at lock, especially in the highly successful first two or three seasons, and provided effective leadership, often in difficult circumstances, in 1999-2001, even though in 2000-01 his international career had come to an end. He finished with 63 Super appearances.

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Jonah Lomu & Joeli Vidiri

Jonah Lomu, Joeli Vidiri, with their power and pace on the wings provided the Blues with two of the most imposing finishers seen anywhere in world rugby. Sadly, their awesome presence as a tandem last all too briefly, with Lomu lost firstly to his illness and then a shift to the Chiefs and then the Hurricanes.

Eroni Clarke

Eroni Clarke played probably his best rugby at provincial level for Auckland, for whom in 1991-2002 he played 150 games occasionally as captain. The hard running, hard tackling midfielder, who was unlucky to receive just 10 caps, was a strong influence in the Blues’ first five seasons. In 2001 he brought his Super caps to 50 as a late season draftee to the Highlanders.

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Olo Brown, Craig Dowd and Fitzpatrick

Olo Brown and Craig Dowd formed with Fitzpatrick a mighty front row with the All Blacks, Auckland through the 1990s, and finally few seasons with the Blues. Injury removed Brown when he was at his peak in 1998, but Dowd continued to give grand service until 2001, by which time he had amassed 64 games.

Carlos Spencer

Carlos Spencer was unchallenged as the Blues’ most enthralling entertainer with his skill at first five-eighths, becoming universally known as “King Carlos.” He will be remembered for the outrageous way he taunted Crusaders’ fans, when in 2004 at Christchurch he deliberately ran to the corner rather than the posts to score, but still landed the conversion from the sideline to deny the hosts even a bonus point. Though a fine All Black despite being a contemporary of Andrew Mehrtens, Spencer played his greatest rugby for Auckland (93 matches) and the Blues (96 matches).

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Ofisa Tonu’u

Ofisa Tonu’u was top value as a strongly built halfback in the first three seasons of the Super 12, before departing the Blues (34 matches) in the draft to the Hurricanes in 1999. His biggest legacy to Auckland may have been in 1995 when with the game moving to professionalism he led many of the union’s best players, including Spencer and Clarke, in signing with the NZRU.

Doug Howlett

Doug Howlett became one of the Blues’ most consistent performers even though his Super 12 career had started as a draft player with the Highlanders (1997) and Hurricanes (1998). A fast, accomplished wing, Howlett was a prolific try-scorer for New Zealand and the Blues. In 97 games for the franchise he scored 55 tries, including four against the Hurricanes in 2002.

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Rupeni Caucaunibuca

Rupeni Caucaunibuca appeared all too briefly for the Blues, just 14 games in 2002-04. But that was enough to prove that here was one of the most gifted wings to ever play the game. Unfortunately, those talents weren’t always matched by commitment and that was a loss for Fiji and at a cost to his own professional career. For the Blues, though, he was often phenomenal, with 15 tries in 14 games, including a spectacular hat-trick in 2004 against the Crusaders.

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Xavier Rush

Xavier Rush was another stalwart Auckland representative who became an All Black, but whose best playing deeds were for the provincial side or the Blues. At first a No 8 understudy to Zinzan Brooke and Michael Jones, Rush established himself with the Blues in 1998. For both province (74 games) and franchise (86 games) he was a splendid leader, winning the Ranfurly Shield, the NPC title and in a career highlight captaining the Blues to the 2003 Super 12 title.

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Daniel Braid

Daniel Braid had the ill luck to be an open-side flanker playing at the same time as Richie McCaw. But while his test chances were limited Braid has still enjoyed a successful career after he had entered Auckland sides in the early 200s with his schoolmate Angus Macdonald, who also went on to perform well for the Blues and briefly become an All Black. Tigerish and quick to the loose ball, the stocky Braid moved to the Reds for the 2009-10 Super 14. But from 2011 he was set to add to his 59 appearances with the Blues after returning to Auckland.

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Steve Devine

Steve Devine was an Australian-born and raised halfback who settled in New Zealand to become, in the illustrious footsteps of 1950s legend Des Connor, not only an All Black (10 tests in 2002-03), but a worthy contributor to Auckland and the Blues. He managed 70 games for the franchise, despite competing with another All Black in Mark Robinson and David Gibson.

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Troy Flavell

Troy Flavell might have become one of the game’s greats such was his immense talent and athleticism as either a lock of blindside flanker. Unfortunately, he was always shadowed by two episodes of foul play. The first was as a young player with North Harbour in 1997 and the second was when he was red-carded for stomping playing for the Blues against the Chiefs in 2003, and saw him suspended for most of the competition. Injuries also handicapped him and in 2004 he moved to Japan. But in 2006 he returned to New Zealand, to regain briefly an All Black spot, and to captain the Blues in 2007-08. Other than seven games for the Chiefs in 1998 all of his 79 Super games were with the Blues.

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Ali Williams

Ali Williams has always been one of Auckland and the Blues’ most charismatic players, a tall, athletic lock with pace and exceptional ball skills. Of course, his ebullient personality has been such he hasn’t always been in harmony with management and in 2008 he had what might be called a “sabbatical” by playing the Super 14 with the Crusaders and helping win that season’s title. But that apart his colourful career has been always with the Blues franchise and his return home in 2009 saw him take his Blues appearances to 58. Unfortunately, in recent years he has suffered serious Achilles tendon injuries.

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Mils Miliaina

Mils Miliaina has been more indentifiable with Waikato and the Chiefs in recent seasons. But all his formative years were with Auckland and it was from the Blues he began his distinguished test career. He has developed into a top fullback, but in his early years and especially when he made 49 appearances for the Blues in 2001-05 he was equally adept as a wing or centre.

Joe Rokocoko

Joe Rokocoko has the distinction of having played for both the Blues and the All Blacks before appearing in provincial rugby for Auckland. With his size and pace and ability to score tries he has maintained the high wing standards set early for the Blues by Jonah Lomu and his cousin, Joeli Vidiri.

Sam Tuitupou

Sam Tuitupou was a small man, by modern rugby standards at 1,76m and 85kg, but that didn’t prevent him being remarkably effective as a second five-eighths, both as a strong runner and fierce tackler, and gaining All Black status. Before departing for a English club contract at the end of the 2007 season he topped 50 games each for Auckland and for the Blues.

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Keven Mealamu

Keven Mealamu has been a wonderful servant of the Blues, both as a hooker and captain, since his Super 12 debut in 2000. All his Super career has been with the franchise, apart from 2002 when he was drafted to the Chiefs. In 2010 he deservedly became the first Blues player to exceed 100 games for the franchise. His time with the Blues has coincided with a distinguished record with the All Blacks, for whom in 2010 he was nearing 90 test caps.

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Anthony Boric

Anthony Boric took a while to establish a regular starting place at lock and in 2006-07 and even into 2008 was mainly a reserve or bench player. But some solid performances towards the end of the 2008 campaign won the tall North Harbour player and Auckland University graduate an All Black spot later that season. He has since become an automatic first choice, though in the past couple of years he has been plagued by injuries

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Tony Woodcock

Tony Woodcock has ensured a regular North Harbour presence in the Blues pretty well since he made his Super 12 debut in the 2002 season as a 21-year old. He made the All Blacks later that season and his consistency has seen him win acclaim as one of world rugby’s best loosehead props. In 2010 he was another closing in on 100 games for the franchise with 95 caps to his credit.

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Luke McAlister

Luke McAlister has been another asset from Harbour for the Blues with his class in the five-eighths. However, after the 2007 World Cup he moved to England and, though returning in 2009, the seasons away, plus injury, appears to have checked what might still be a stellar career.

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Isa Nacewa

Isa Nacewa proved himself in 44 games in 2005-08 for the Blues, plus 52 for Auckland, as one of the most accomplished utility backs ever seen in New Zealand rugby. He was at home in any position from first five-eighths to fullback and was a useful goal-kicker as well. He would certainly have been an All Black but for appearing for Fiji briefly as a youngster at the 2003 World Cup, thus making himself ineligible for New Zealand.

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Justin Collins

Justin Collins started his Super 12 career with the Chiefs, but following Northland’s move into the Blues became a stalwart member of the franchise, finishing his career with 104 Super games. He also played 100-plus games for Northland and another 50 for Auckland. He was a rugged forward desperately unlucky never to have been an All Black. During his career he suffered heart problems and won admiration for his courage in overcoming those, often when he was sidelined filling in as the team’s bus drivers. He was one of many solid Northlanders, Nick White, David Holwell and now Rene Ranger, to add value to the Blues.

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Rico Gear

Rico Gear, before moving to the Crusaders, Rudi Wulf, and Anthony Tuitavake were a trio of talented Harbour outside backs who were attacking assets through the 2000s.

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John Afoa

John Afoa has graduated from a solid apprenticeship with Auckland and the Blues to become a bulwark at tighthead prop, whose scrummaging is now beginning to almost equal his skill in the open. His Blues caps by 2010 had reached 83.

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Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino has developed since his debut for the Blues in 2004 as a champion blindside flanker, forming in 2010 one of the All Blacks’ best ever backrows with Richie McCaw and Kieran Read. By 2010 he had 67 Blues caps.

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Isaia Toeava

Isaia Toeava made a sensational entry into top class rugby as a teenager in 2005 to win a place on the All Blacks’ end of year tour. His versatility has been almost as great as that of Nacewa and he, too, has filled with equal facility for the Blues and Auckland a range of backline positions. Despite injuries he has continued to maintain his All Blacks spot and in 2010 optimism remained that eventually he will fulfil his immense potential.

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