The Nelson region has had many brushes with All Blacks greats, almost greats and those players who got close to the black jersey before Tasman’s crop of 2019 All Blacks like Atu Moli, who starts at prop tonight against Canada in Japan, and Shannon Frizell.
The amalgamated union of Marlborough and Nelson Bays has had a part in producing nine All Blacks in their 13-year existence.
Rico Gear, Wyatt Crockett, Liam Squire, Kane Hames, Tim Perry, David Havili, Atu Moli, Shannon Frizell and Tyrel Lomax.
Precious few have been home grown products however, that number is set to rise in the coming years.
Havili, a Nelson-born lad, has had five tests for the All Blacks since 2017.
Before the formation of the Tasman Mako in 2006, Nelson Bays had produced two All Blacks in wing Rico Gear, who played for Nelson Bays in 2005 and Tasman in 2006, and fullback Trevor Morris, who represented Golden Bay, Motueka and Nelson Bays in the 1960s and 70s.
Morris played 23 games for the All Blacks between 1972 and 73, including three internationals, and scored 33 points in all games.
Gear made 20 appearances for the All Blacks between 2004 and 2007, mostly on the wing, and scored 13 tries.
Many talented former players have also had a brush with the region during their playing days.
Takaka product Terry Mitchell played 17 games on the wing for New Zealand, including an international, between 1974 and 1976.
Former All Black captain and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder took up a welding job in Collingwood after leaving Rangiora High School and played age-group rugby for Nelson Bays.
Blackadder made his senior provincial debut in 1990 for Nelson Bays against Marlborough.
Former Mako scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i made 38 appearances for Nelson Bays and Tasman between 2004 and 2009 before beginning his international career with Samoa in 2011.
Murray Henderson had been selected for an All Blacks trial in 1986 before a knee injury would rob him of the opportunity to press his claims for the inaugural World Cup 12 months later.
The Manawatu flanker would come to Nelson Bays in 1992 to an unbeaten season in the third division of provincial rugby.
Former Crusaders prop Con Barrell, who toured with the All Blacks in 1996 and 1997 spent a season in Nelson Bays in 2001 while on loan from Canterbury.
Nelson-born No 8 Mark Bright who was one of the mainstays of early Tasman Mako teams went on to represent England at sevens at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Current Canterbury captain and Nelson College product Mitchell Drummond made his year debut last year against Japan, a lone test appearance for the 25-year-old who still has plenty more rugby in him.
Waimea Old Boys product James Lowe had a breakthrough final season in New Zealand rugby for the Chiefs in 2016.
On the cusp of All Black selection, the community-minded winger, who was a regular spectator at Jubilee Park signed a deal with Leinster effectively ending his own chances at a black jersey even though the Nelson-born flyer is still only 27-years-old.
Wyatt Crockett had a distinguished All Blacks career where he made 71 appearances before deciding to retire from international rugby and play out the rest of his career for his home province the Tasman Mako in 2018.
Crockett attended Nelson College until 2000.