All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was given the supreme award at the Steinlager New Zealand Literature Awards last night.
McCaw’s epic book, Richie, won the main award, the Literature Cup, as well as picking up a number of other prizes.
The win takes the All Blacks back to the top of the world literature rankings and completes a strong 12 months for the world champions.
Speaking to the packed crowd at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, McCaw gave a moving and eloquent speech that reduced many to tears.
“Yeah, nah, I’m rapt,” said McCaw, as he held aloft the Cup. “This is for all you fans who stuck by the team.
“It was a bloody tough contest, and I wasn’t sure if we’d pull it off till the very end, but we stuck in there and gave it everything.
“Thanks very much, and cheers.”
The win backs up McCaw’s Best Actor award at last month’s Rexona New Zealand Film Awards. McCaw took the top acting honour for his role in the short film Adidas Haka Advert.
Last night's judging panel included some of New Zealand’s top literature players, both present and past.
Awards chairman Murray Mexted said the calibre of the award entries this year was outstanding.
“Mate, there were some top efforts all round. All credit to these guys,” said Mr Mexted.
In a break from tradition a special Lifetime Literature Achievement award was presented to Colin Meads.
Organisers of the event had signalled they would present a special award to someone who had excelled in the field of literature over many years, and who had put New Zealand on the map.
In the end Mr Meads edged out stern competition from C K Stead, Patricia Grace and Keri Hulme to take the prize.
“Bloody good stuff,” said Mr Meads.
Other winners on the night were the All Black Cory Jane for his monumental work Twitter Stream, and his teammate Dan Carter who took the top poetry medal for the short poem Responding to Journalist Questions at All Blacks Press Conference.
Carter's work, which includes such memorable lines as “yeah, nah, I’m pretty gutted about the injury, but, you know, I guess that’s life and I’ve just got to move on”, has been described by some commentators as a modern masterpiece.
“Mate, the clever allegorical use of the ‘yeah, nah’ phrase in almost every line of the poem provides a thumping and powerful rhythmic effect throughout the work, reminding us at the same time of the eternal contradiction between what is and what is not, and leaving the reader with a sense of dilemma and confusion, challenging in a profound and powerful way modern hegemonic modes of discourse and dialogue, while highlighting the internal intellectual and spiritual crisis raging within the writer,” said chief poetry judge Peter Leitch, better known as The Mad Butcher.
"Mate, I almost cried like a girl when I read it."
Others have praised the fluency of Carter's work.
“Carter has always had a powerful left boot, but what stood out to me was some of his crisp passing through the backline, and those telling breaks late in the game as the opposition began to tire,” said commentator Grant Nisbett.
Patron of the event, Prime Minister John Key, has dismissed claims by some in the arts world that McCaw and Carter lack any literary ability and are undeserving winners.
“Okay, so Richie McCaw may not be Shakespeare, but who can even remember a single line Shakespeare ever wrote?” said Mr Key.
“And how many points did Shakespeare ever score in international rugby?”