'He had an aura about him' – Sir John Graham remembered as so much more than just an All Blacks captain

Sir David John Graham is being hailed as an educator and leader without parallel.

Sir John filled the roles of a rugby player and headmaster in his life, but what he did for those around him in those roles is what set him apart. Source: 1 NEWS

Sir John is being remembered as a lifelong mentor and a man who worked hard to get the best out of people - describing him as a former All Blacks captain, just scrapes the surface.

"Very few leaders think they'll be leaders, certainly most good ones don't," he told 1 NEWS in 2012; he may could have been describing himself.

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry saw him as a leader, mentor and lifelong friend.

"He was one person outside of Raewyn, my wife, who's had the greatest infuence on me and my career," he said.

Sir John played 22 Tests and 53 matches for the All Blacks between 1958 and 1964 and was a captain in three Tests in 1964 against Australia, carving out a reputation as a fast and clever loose forward.

People were a big thing in his life, he spent a long time trying to make young men into better men.

The All Blacks coach says he's kicking himself for not seeing Sir John earlier this week. Source: 1 NEWS

Born in Taranaki in 1935, he shifted to Auckland and played provincial rugby, but Sir John actually made the All Blacks out of Canterbury while teaching at Christchurch Boys High.

After touring South Africa in 1960, he became a staunch opponent of apartheid.

"I was rung up by the New Zealand Rugby Union and told under no circumstances was I to make any comments again about politics in South Africa," he told 1 NEWS in 2011.

He returned to Auckland in the 70 s before shaping lives as headmaster of Auckland Grammar for 20 years from 1973 onwards.

"He had an aura about him," former All Black and Auckland Grammar Alumni Grant Fox said.

"An aura where you didn't want to let him down, you were scared of him, but you weren't really - you were afraid to let him down.

Auckland Grammar Headmaster Tim O'Connor reflects on the effect Sir John Graham had on the school he oversaw for 20 years. Source: 1 NEWS

The school flew its flag at half mast yesterday and held a special assembly in his honour, but it wasn't the only community he would affect in his career after rugby.

Sir John would go on to be Chancellor of Auckland University, the new zealander of the year and a hard nosed manager of the New Zealand Cricket team in the late 1990s.

After a battle with cancer, Sir John died aged 82 on Wednesday surrounded by family, but his legacy truly lives on.

"He's an outstanding role model and he gave me and others like me, many of them, opportunities to get better," Sir Graham said.