Former All Blacks captain Andy Haden dies aged 69

Former All Blacks captain Andy Haden has died today aged 69, following a long illness.

Former All Black Andy Haden. Source: Getty

Born in Whanganui, Haden joined the famous Ponsonby club in Auckland in 1971, becoming an All Black just a year later.

He struggled to establish himself for some seasons but was soon an automatic selection.

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Haden died aged 69 after a long battle with cancer, having played 41 Tests for the All Blacks. Source: 1 NEWS

Tough and uncompromising, Haden became forever embroiled in notoriety in a thriller at Cardiff Arms Park against Wales in 1978.

Down two points, in a planned move he "dived" from the lineout in an attempt to secure a penalty.

Brian McKechnie slotting the resulting "kick of the decade" for an All Black win

Andy Haden contests a restart during a Test between the All Blacks and British Lions at Eden Park in 1983. Source: Getty

Despite allegations against Haden of cheating, the referee clearly awarded the penalty against Welshman Geoff Wheel for holding down the other All Black lock, Frank Oliver.

Haden was an early champion of professionals, part of the new breed prepared to challenge the establishment.

His first book landing him in hot water for promoting non-amateur rugby.

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Haden not only battled and beat the best of his era, but also took on the establishment. Source: 1 Sport

After the 1985 All Black tour to Apartheid-era South Africa was cancelled, Haden was instrumental in organising the rebel "Cavaliers" tour there, a year later.

Haden, who was 198cm, or six foot six in the old, played 117 games including 41 Tests and chose his 36th birthday to announce his retirement from the All Blacks.

In retirement, Haden expanded his sports marketing business to become deal maker and agent to the stars including model Rachel Hunter.

He was on hand after the birth of Rachel and Rod Stewart's daughter, Renee, in London.

Haden was also there for the darker times after model and TV personality Charlotte Dawson took her own life.

“Beautiful girl but always a little bit of a tormented soul but she was a lovely girl,” Haden said of Dawson.

In 2003, he announced he was battling cancer saying at the time he was positive he could beat it.

Never afraid to shoot from the hip, Haden's role as a Rugby World Cup ambassador in 2010 ended in controversy over comments deemed racist.

“Once they've recruited three that's it, that's their ceiling, three darkies no more,” Haden said of the Crusaders’ recruitment.

Then more comments suggesting women who target sports stars and end up being raped are partly to blame.

During the late 1970s and early 80s, Haden was without peer in his position, viewed as the best lineout ball winner in the world.

A man who embodied "professionalism" in an amateur era, the quintessential straight talker wrote in his book "any publicity is good publicity, except an obituary".