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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 09:45 GMT
End for the Great Redeemer
Graham Henry leads a Lions team building session
Henry's fame went far beyond the world of rugby
Graham Henry became a national icon in Wales with fame that transcended the rugby world. BBC News Online looks back at the impact he has had on the nation.

Wales were at their lowest ebb in 1998 when they were thrashed by almost 100 points in a test against South Africa.

Fan dressed as Graham Henry
Welsh fans would dress as their hero

The search for a new coach went worldwide and ended with a straight-talking New Zealander who stunned his home country with a typically concise soundbite.

"I'm going to coach Wales - and I'm leaving tonight."

The former Auckland school teacher soon became a national icon even before a string of 10 straight victories saw him dubbed 'The Great Redeemer'.

Hero worship

Sweetest of all for Welsh rugby fans was the famous 32-31 victory at Wembley which denied England the Grand Slam in 1999.

Raewyn and Graham Henry
Raewyn Henry became Wales netball coach

Henry appeared on chatshows, published his autobiography - The X Factor - and was even immortalised in cartoon form by BBC Wales.

His sporting family also made an impact on the nation, with wife Raewyn appointed as Wales netball coach and son Andrew playing on the wing for Cardiff RFC.

But Wales's failure to make an impact in 1999 World Cup signalled the beginning of the end.

Animated version of Graham Henry
Henry was animated for BBC Wales TV

As excitement mounted in the build up to the start of the tournament in October 1999, some fans even wondered if the host nation would be led to victory by their new messiah.

Consequently there was widespread disappointment at defeat in the quarter-finals by the eventual winners Australia.

But Henry himself had always warned that his real goal in rebuilding Wales was the 2003 tournament.

End of the affair

Record defeats at home to England, Argentina and Ireland followed with Saturday's defeat in Dublin the last straw.

Welsh rugby fan Spike - as portrayed by actor Richard Nichols - sent Henry a tear-stained letter asking where it all went wrong.

"You came over here all young and full of promise - and only for a quarter of a million quid a year," he wrote.

Richard Nichols as Spike
Spike told Henry his heart had been broken

"We even thought you'd make us a bit cleverer, see, what with you being a school teacher.

"Please excuse the wrinkled paper that I'm trying to write this letter on.

"However it's tricky to write on paper damp with tears."

The nation's love affair with Graham Henry may have ended abruptly.

But it's likely to be a long time before the impact he had on Wales is forgotten.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Claire Summers
"The straight-talking New Zealander soon became a national icon"
BBC Wales's Bob Humphrys
"The resignation was seen more as a symptom than the cause of a game which lurches from crisis to crisis"
Welsh rugby fan Spike
asks Graham Henry where it all went wrong
 SPORTS TALK
Graham Henry: Under pressure after bad results

See also:

07 Feb 02 | Photo Galleries
End of the road for Henry
06 Feb 02 | International
Henry walks away from Wales
06 Feb 02 | International
The downfall of Henry
10 Sep 01 | Wales
Graham Henry takes the plunge
06 Jun 01 | Wales
Coach Henry wins cap - and gown
11 Oct 99 | Wales
Wales coach goes online
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