Former All Black captain Buck Shelford knighted

At the bottom of the pile of invoices sent to his Auckland home, one of New Zealand's toughest rugby players discovered the secret his wife had been keeping.

From today, the former All Black captain known as Buck, upgrades to Sir Wayne "Buck" Shelford.

And this time it is official.

Shelford's knighthood for services to rugby and the community in the Queen's Birthday Honours was not a surprise to his wife, Jo, who had played a part in helping those people in Māoridom who had nominated him.

"I put this letter [from Government House] in front of her and she just looked at me and laughed," Shelford said of his own discovery that he was among the four New Zealanders to be knighted today.

Shelford said he been trying to get his whānau to call him Sir for years. But now he had the official honour to back up his request.

Part of the reason why Shelford was honoured was his work to bring the mana back to the All Blacks haka.

The number 8 joined the All Blacks in 1985 as a 27-year-old with a background in the Defence Force and 10 years of kapa haka behind him.

The way military approached kapa haka compared with the "embarrassing" way the All Blacks did the haka at the time struck Shelford.

He wanted to change it. But he knew he needed to get his European teammates on board.

"I grew up watching the All Blacks do the haka and it was quite comical really the way they did it because they weren't very well trained. I don't think they ever practised it, and they were all out of sync at times and sometimes their actions weren't the same," Shelford said.

"A lot people hated doing it, I know that a lot of the All Blacks that were Europeans, they didn't like doing it."

In hooker Hika Reid, Shelford found an ally and was able to turn the tide.

"I said you've got to buy into this, you've got to learn the tikanga of it, you need to learn the words correctly, and we kept the actions pretty simple and from there we got total buy in from the management and the senior players and so we got out there and started doing it and got better and better."