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Five great code-crossers

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allblacks.com     17 May 2016     Getty Images

Jeff Wilson (Cricket)
Gifted in multiple sports, it originally looked like cricket would be the sport that ‘Goldie’ would settle in. A 19-year-old Wilson debuted for the BlackCaps against a seasoned Australia side in March 1993. Although New Zealand lost the series 3-2, Wilson played a leading hand in both victories by snaring the wickets of David Boon and Shane Warne in one match and slamming 41 off 28 balls in the following encounter. Just six months later, Wilson was selected for the All Blacks and embarked on a 60 Test career. After retiring from rugby in 2002 as one of the most decorated All Black outside backs, Wilson returned to cricket and once again played for the BlackCaps in 2005.

Brad Thorn (Rugby League)
Mosgiel-born Thorn moved to Australia at the age of eight with his family and developed into a rugby league powerhouse. At 198cm and 120kg, Thorn debuted for the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL as a 19-year old in 1994 and went onto represent Australia and Queensland. Recognised as one of the greatest forwards in rugby league, Thorn made the shock move back to his country of birth in 2001 to pursue a career in rugby union. Thorn made an immediate impact in the fifteen man code by winning the NPC with Canterbury in 2001 before making his All Blacks debut in 2003. In between a stint back in rugby league, Thorn played 59 Tests for the All Blacks and was part of the Rugby World Cup winning squad in 2011.

Timo Tagaloa (American Football)
Auckland born Timo Tagaloa relocated to USA in 1985 and became a big star for Utah State in American College Football. As an explosive ball runner, Utah State coach Chris Pella recognised Tagaloa as one of the top 15-20 backs in American College football. Once his education was completed, Tagaloa decided to return to New Zealand rather than chase an NFL dream and made a huge impact for Wellington in the NPC. Playing on the wing, Tagaloa became a cult figure in Wellington through his trademark power running. In 1991, Tagaloa was selected for Samoa and was part of the side that famously defeated Wales 16-13 in the Rugby World Cup.

Steve McDowall (Judo)
Although known as one of the great All Blacks front rowers, Steve McDowall was originally a world class Judo exponent. After winning the North Island open grade title at the age of 15, McDowall went on to win Oceania, Pan Pacific and junior world titles before being selected for the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Unfortunately for McDowall, New Zealand boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games and he was denied the chance to compete. Soon after, McDowall switched focus to rugby union and became known as one of the finest props in the world game. He played 46 Tests for the All Blacks from 1986-1992 and was part of the inaugural Rugby World Cup winning squad in 1987.

Sonny Bill Williams (Rugby League)
A trail blazer in world sport, Williams joined the NRL’s Canterbury Bulldogs at the age of 16 and went onto become the youngest Bulldog to win a premiership when he lifted the title in 2004 at 19-years-old. After establishing himself as one of the biggest stars in Rugby League, Williams switched to rugby union in 2008 and honed his game under former All Black Tana Umaga at Toulon. Signing with Canterbury in 2010, Williams made a huge splash by winning the NPC and Ranfurly Shield before making his All Blacks debut the same year. The off-loading specialist went onto become a vital part of the All Blacks set-up and won Rugby World Cup titles of 2011 and 2015. In between this, he had a successful stint back in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters and won the New Zealand heavyweight boxing championship. Williams is currently vying for a place in the All Blacks Sevens squad for the Rio Olympics.