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Inspirational . . . Waitaki Boys' High School rector Darryl Paterson (centre) warmly welcomed Professor Richie Poulton (left) and former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry to the school last Friday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Waitaki has produced some of New Zealand’s finest people, Sir Graham Henry says.

The former All Black coach’s mother, Ann, was born in Oamaru, as were many of his cousins and good friends, not to mention “the greatest All Black of all time”, Richie McCaw.

As a child, Sir Graham visited the district frequently and, as a Christchurch Boys’ High School pupil, he spent many nights at Don House on sports exchanges with Waitaki Boys’ High School.

It was those memories that came flooding back as he and Professor Richie Poulton were welcomed to Waitaki Boys’ with a stirring haka last Friday.

Sir Graham and Prof Poulton are touring boys’ schools to spread a message about looking after their mothers, and managing emotions and behaviours, in their roles as Plunket Foundation trustees. Together, they are raising money for the Plunket programmes, and teaching school pupils how they can help the cause.

The pair spoke to the whole school at an assembly on Friday before going into more depth with the school’s prefects.

Sir Graham said the response from the Waitaki Boys’ pupils was brilliant.

“They understand that -seventh of our kids are in poverty and the thing that’s going to help them the most is building some self-control, Sir Graham said.

“It’s good to be able to help. [Poverty’s] our worst nightmare in this country, I reckon. We’re the greatest country in the world and we’ve got this tale [of poverty].”

Prof Poulton said Waitaki Boys’ was one of the first schools to “stand up” to help fund Plunket’s extra programmes.

“The haka was amazing. I’ve never seen a principal, or rector ever join a haka and I have extraordinary admiration for Darryl [Rector Darryl Paterson],” Prof Poulton said.

“I will never forget that – I feel like somehow I’ve been blessed today.”

Mr Paterson said the idea of boys supporting their mothers struck a cord as “our mums are the most special people in our lives”.

Next month, Waitaki Boys’ pupils will be selling raffle tickets throughout Oamaru to raise money for Plunket, he said.