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'Needle' makes point on threat to Eden Park
Tuesday November 14, 2006
By Patrick Gower

He is the only undefeated All Black coach, but one of the few material benefits Fred Allen ever took from the game would be lost if a waterfront stadium went ahead.

As a life member of Auckland Rugby, Mr Allen gets a carpark at Eden Park and a pair of tickets to any of its events.

At the waterfront, his carpark would definitely go, while the ticket arrangement would also be at risk in the hands of a new regime.

That and the loss of Eden Park's great history is enough for Mr Allen to bring out his legendary needle on the idea. "Yes, I would take it as a personal affront."

Although Mr Allen, 86, might lose his carpark anyway should the redevelopment of Eden Park go ahead, he said he would still prefer to watch games there rather than "head down to the wharf".

He believed little could replace its atmosphere and history. "Eden Park holds a lot of memories and I'm afraid I would find that very hard to break. I wouldn't go along as much.

"Mind you, I might not be afloat by then; I am getting on in years."

Few people have a connection like Mr Allen's to the park.

After serving in World War II, he was a slick first or second five-eighth for Auckland, and captained the All Blacks in every one of his 21 games.

As a coach he took Auckland on a record 25-match tenure with the Ranfurly Shield and then the All Blacks to an unbeaten run of 14 tests between 1966-68, his dictatorial style and penchant for "sticking it in" to players earning him the moniker "The Needle".

His ties continue today as the patron of Auckland Rugby.

"I've been most things in there: patron, president - you name it."

Mr Allen said he still went along to every Auckland and All Black game either with friends or wife Norma, sometimes driving himself in from Tindalls Beach on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

"I get a carpark and some tickets. It is a privilege. I didn't get much else out of rugby except a lot of camaraderie and friendship which to me is more important than money."

The Eden Park Trust Board has said the park's sustainability would be in doubt if Auckland Rugby were to join the All Blacks at the waterfront stadium, leaving Auckland Cricket looking for a new home.

Mr Allen said this would be "very, very sad" for both codes. But his instinct told him Eden Park would end up the preferred option.

"The more I think about it, the more I don't think [the new stadium] will happen."