David Havili's mum Jenny Bisley in the lounge of her home in Motueka. Photo: Andrew Board.

Becoming the mum of an All Black

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As David Havili stands in the middle of his first All Blacks haka in Argentina, the television camera briefly captures a glimpse of his face. It looks like the others around him – stern, focused.

But even that glimpse on a television screen 10,000km away was recognized in a heartbeat by the person who knows it best, his mother.

“There he is!” she blurted. “He’ll be nervous as hell.”

Earlier in the day Jenny Bisley, now also known as mother of All Black David Havili, killed time and her nerves by doing the vacuuming, going to the supermarket and doing whatever she could to take her mind of her eldest son’s test debut for the All Blacks on Sunday morning.

The price of flights and the time to get to Argentina meant she couldn’t be there to watch the game in person. So she’s at home, in front of the television and surrounded by her sister, brother-in-law, nephew, family friends, David’s cat “Mischief” and her youngest son Wily, himself a local rugby star with the Nelson Rugby Club.

On the walls of the lounge are photos of David and “William”. The boys as pre-schoolers, as young teenagers, and many more of them playing rugby.

On one wall hangs David’s jersey from when he made the New Zealand under-20 team, his Player of the Year trophy for this year’s champion Crusader team sits on a wall unit below it and there are photos of David’s first try as a Mako and another of his first try as a Crusader.

In the far corner of that same wall is a mural made up of photos from when David met the visiting All Blacks in 1999 as a 5 year old.

He’s there with Jonah Lomu, Pita Alatini, Tana Umaga and Jeff Wilson.

David Havili with All Black Jeff Wilson in 1999. Photo: Supplied.
David Havili with All Black Jeff Wilson in 1999. Photo: Supplied.

As the game kicks off, David finds his way to the sideline, from where he will later come on as a substitute. At his home in Motueka, the focus of his family switches from trying to point out David to watching rugby and the All Blacks start well, in particular the man who is playing in David’s position, Damien McKenzie.

“It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” points out David’s uncle Rick. “He’ll need a rest after all these runs,” he jokes.

By the middle of the second half Jenny’s Facebook page starts to light up. “I can’t wait for David to get on”, her friends comment.

Neither can she.

Then, almost as an anticlimax, his substitution into the game ten minutes before full time is missed by the commentators and no one realizes he’s on the pitch until, suddenly, the ball is passed to… David!

David Havili during his first test math in the All Blacks. Photo: Supplied.
David Havili during his first test math in the All Blacks. Photo: Supplied.

“There he is!” yells his mum. His aunt Maree lets out a whoop and everyone inches forward.

Commentator Tony Johnston notes that Havili is the 19th Nelson College old boy to play for the All Blacks. “And the first from Motueka High School,” points out Jenny.

A few minutes later he makes a bursting run up the middle of the ground before delivering a pin-point pass to a supporting player.

The play gets approval from the room. “What a run,” they say.

Then, as the game clock ticks over 80 minutes, the All Blacks pack one final scrum. Commentator Justin Marshall thinks it could be set up well for a try to Havili, “if they can get it off the forwards”.

The scrum goes nowhere, then captain Kieran Read picks up the ball and passes it to half back TJ Perenara who then passes it to… DAVID HAVILI!

The former Motueka United, Huia, Motueka High School, Nelson College, Nelson Rugby Club, Tasman Makos and Crusaders star scores a try in his first ever test match for the All Blacks. His family live every second with him.

“Look at his smile,” says his mum. “Oh my god,” says his aunt. “He’s making me cry.”

It is the perfect ending for boy who had his eyes on being an All Black from a young age.

Jenny says it was obvious in primary school that he was a very good player. “People would say all the time ‘he’s going to be an All Black’. I remember his primary school teacher would say it all the time. He was always sporty and always very determined.”

Maree retold the story from a primary school friend who remembers David practicing his signature for when he made the team.

And when his mum framed his under-20 jersey for the wall he told her. “That won’t be the only black jersey you’ll be framing.”

Jenny says she’s proud of her son.

“It’s hard to even realise he’s there. As a mother you watch a lot of games when they’re growing up and do a lot of washing. But you also see the down periods, when people told him that he wouldn’t get anywhere because of his size.”

After his dream debut, Jenny – herself a former rugby player with Huia – says his job now was to stay there.

“With Ben Smith and Israel Dagg still to come back it might be hard, but every time he’s given an opportunity he makes the most of it, so who knows. Either way, I’m very proud of him.”

After taking phone calls and replying to text messages of support, Jenny’s next task was to clear some room on that wall because David was right, there is another black jersey she’ll have to put up there.