Sean Fitzpatrick

21st June 2013 at 01:00
The legendary All Black remembers the man who didn't know much about rugby but taught him all he needed to succeed on the pitch

It may sound strange coming from a former All Blacks captain, but the teacher who inspired me most knew very little about rugby.

In fact, Guy Davies, who taught me from the age of 12, was my accounting (basic economics) teacher at Sacred Heart College, a Catholic secondary school run by the Marist Brothers in Auckland, New Zealand. He was a strict but good teacher and a decent man with a wonderful outlook on life.

I wasn't particularly good at accounting but Mr Davies' real influence on me was on the rugby pitch. Like most teachers in those days he helped out with sports teams in his own time. He was enthusiastic, but because he didn't know much about rugby he was put in charge of the worst team - and that was mine. I was a bit overweight, and the heaviest pupils were put in the lowest team, so I found myself coached by Mr Davies.

We lost every game - often by a lot.

But Mr Davies changed our lives. He encouraged us to keep going, keep improving, no matter how many times we lost. He would be delighted with any small progress, saying: "That's fantastic - now work on something else for next week."

But his most profound influence came from three principles that he drummed into us from the beginning. One: that everyone in the team was equal - there was no special treatment and no stars. Two: that when we turned up for training on a Monday night, we had to show a bit of attitude, show that we wanted to be there. Three: that he wanted us, as individuals and as a team, to be as successful as we could be and to play to our full potential. His actual phrase was: "I want you to be winners."

It was hugely important and we each took those guiding principles with us as we made our way in our different careers. It was those principles that helped me through a difficult period in my playing career when I might not otherwise have made it.

After leaving school at 18, I played for Auckland University Club, coached by Graham Henry, who went on to coach the All Blacks. When I was 19, I played for Auckland province, but I thought I was better than I was. I had natural ability but we all drank, ate and smoked too much. I wasn't taking it seriously.

Only after they let me go did reality hit me and the message from Mr Davies kicked in: I had to work hard to go to the next level and be as successful as I could.

I fought my way back into the Auckland provincial team and went on to play professionally as hooker for the Auckland Blues. I won the first of 92 caps for the All Blacks in 1986, played in the final of the inaugural Rugby World Cup the following year and became captain of the All Blacks in 1992.

I have kept in contact with Mr Davies and mentioned him in my book Winning Matters.

His tips helped me to become a successful international rugby player. But he also gave me lessons for life. I still live by those principles today.

Sean Fitzpatrick is an Academy Member of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation (, which works to improve the lives of children around the world, and has helped more than 1.5 million young people since its inception in 2000. He was speaking to David Harrison


Born: 4 June 1963, in Auckland, New Zealand

Education: Mt Carmel School and Sacred Heart College, both in Auckland

Career: Played for the Auckland University Club, Auckland province, the Auckland Blues and the All Blacks; founder and director of events company Front Row Hospitality.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today