by Nevan MacEwan.
Ian Neven MacEwan has had enough experiences to fill the lives of several men. When the Crowd Stops Roaring tells the story of a teacher, travel agent, small business owner, local government official, city councillor, and prison chaplain. None of these roles, however, elevated him to prominence like his 134 matches representing Wellington, or especially his 55 matches as an All Black.
The grandson of wealthy Scottish immigrants and the son of the family disappointment, MacEwan escaped the difficulties created by his father’s alcoholism to achieve great success in rugby. His success rose to the heights of captaining the All Blacks during several matches in a tour of South Africa. Success, in many ways, is the beginning of this story, not the end.
Outwardly, he continued to achieve well after his playing days, but darkness followed him, and lies covered his increasing dependence on alcohol. From his position as a Palmerston North City Councillor to his arrest and attempted suicide, MacEwan’s fall was great. However, because of God’s grace, and the help he received, he can tell a story of redemption and usefulness as a servant in the Kingdom of Heaven.
One fascinating element in this book is the insight that MacEwan provides into the All Blacks selection process during the 1950s and 1960s. In his opinion, favouritism was rife among the selectors who saw themselves as inscrutable in their final decisions. MacEwan praises several men he deemed worthy of the Black jersey, but for lack of exposure or because of a selector’s bias were left off the team. The author writes these sections without the tone of bitterness; instead, he brings attention to forgotten rugby teammates and opponents who never had the exposure of mass television for their provincial matches. MacEwan himself was dropped with little explanation before the All Blacks left to tour the British Isles. His fall from the team allowed for Stan Meads to play alongside his brother Colin, even though MacEwan “formed an especially effective locking combination with Colin Meads”.(1) This second-row partnership, during the late 1950s, was undoubtedly a highlight of MacEwan’s sporting career.
This book is an excellent read for any rugby fan. For the person who remembers MacEwan’s era, it will undoubtedly be a memorable journey through a sea of familiar names and events. However, younger fans should not be dismayed from reading about an All Black of whom they have no knowledge. It is fascinating to hear of some of the nuances in the game which have since changed, such as converted tries being worth only five points during MacEwan’s career, and wingers throwing the ball in lineouts.
Like any good sports book, it is worth reading because it is not just a book about sports. Rugby provides the backdrop as we witness the rise, fall, and redemption of a fascinating, man and committed Christian: Nev MacEwan.
(1) Lindsay Knight, “Nevan MacEwan #578,” All Blacks, http://stats.allblacks.com/asp/profile.asp?ABID=517 (accessed May 28, 2020).
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About the reviewer
Joshua Ens is a Canadian currently residing in New Zealand. As well as a book reviewer for Authentic he is a Youth Pastor at River City Bible Church and a full-time Secondary School Teacher.
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