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Meet Grahame Thorne (top left). He’s one of New Zealand’s most famous rugby players, a star centre for the legendary All Blacks from 1967 to 1970, playing ten test matches and ranking as the most dazzling runner of his generation.
He would have played many more games for his country but for his decision to reside in South Africa during his prime playing years. Grahame returned to New Zealand in 1974, later becoming a commentator, pundit and politician.
Rugby, as much as a religion as a sport in New Zealand, has given Grahame everything. But in 2006 it also took away something dear to him.
In that year his son David (pictured right in both pictures above), a highly promising 20 year player who some predicted would follow in his father’s illustrious footsteps all the way to the top, was injured in a match. The effect was devastating, leading to a stroke and permanent brain damage. Today David, still a gentle and personable young man, cannot talk and faces a life requiring continuous support.
The Moodie Report met father and son during a fleeting visit to Christchurch, New Zealand, this month. Grahame has been selling off his rugby memorabilia to pay for his son’s short and long-term care but with typical generosity donated to our 5 October charity dinner in Hong Kong (on behalf of children’s cleft surgery programme The Smile Train) a rugby jersey signed by former British and Irish Lions captains Willie John McBride, Gavin Hastings, Brian O’Driscoll and Tony O’Reilly as well as a number of All Blacks leaders and legends, including Jonah Lomu, Sean Fitzpatrick, Tana Umaga and current skipper Richie McCaw.
The Moodie Report was delighted in return to donate a cheque for £1,000 to the Thorne family.
Such a story puts life in perspective. Grahame Thorne brought huge pleasure to those who watched his mercurial exploits on the field. He was and is a larger than life character with a heart as big as the holes he used to blow in the opposition midfield. But the lives of him, his son and his family have changed forever.
How appropriate therefore, and how poignant, is the fact that his donation to The Smile Train will raise funds that will so drastically change the lives of young children in the developing world.
The smiles that will be restored will be every bit as wide as those on the faces of New Zealand rugby followers as they used to delight in the on-field exploits of this living legend.
[Note: If you wish to assist in Grahame Thorne’s fund-raising efforts for David, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]