All Blacks hooker and Test centurion Keven Mealamu has announced he is hanging up his boots at the end of the 2015 season – but the good news for rugby fans and New Zealand Rugby is that he won’t be lost to the national game. Mealamu is to become a New Zealand Rugby Ambassador working for the national body for the next two years, with a particular focus on the wider Auckland strategy and community rugby. New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew says: ‘We’re delighted to announce Keven’s appointment as a New Zealand Rugby Ambassador. He’s hugely respected by not only our organisation, but the wider rugby community. He has huge mana amongst the Auckland communities as well for everything he’s achieved and is the perfect person to carry out this role. As an Aucklander, Keven is well aware of the challenges we face in the greater Auckland region. He’s ideally placed to help us encourage more players, coaches and referees to embrace the game in the region.’
Mealamu said he was ‘excited and humbled’ by the opportunity, saying: ‘I’ve loved my time as a rugby player here in New Zealand and loved being part of all the teams I have represented, particularly the All Blacks. While there’s a little bit more I want to achieve this year before I hang up my boots, it’s cool to know that I am going to be still involved in rugby in this new role. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support the game which I love and which has given me so much, and in my Rugby Ambassador role I look forward to giving back to the game, to the Auckland region, the wider community, and to New Zealand Rugby.’
Mealamu will also be involved in promotion of New Zealand Rugby’s other community, educational and social responsibility initiatives (e.g. the Applaud sideline behaviour programme) and will also play an ambassadorial role within New Zealand Rugby’s commercial, charity and VIP programmes.
Mealamu has played 126 Tests so far for the Kiwis and is the most capped Super Rugby player in history, with 175 appearances. He has been involved in New Zealand Rugby for more than 30 years since first being selected as a flanker in the schoolboy New Zealand Under-16 side in 1995. He was encouraged to switch to hooker and quickly adapted to the front row and the core essentials of a modern hooker, as a solid scrummager and accurate lineout thrower, but always retained many of the instincts of a loose forward with his mobility and skills in the open.
He made his provincial debut for Auckland in 1999, Super Rugby debut in 2000 and All Blacks debut in 2002. Off-field, he has been involved in numerous community and charity causes over the years: a talented illustrator, he has collaborated on a number of children’s books as part of a project to support young children at Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital.