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June 08, 2021 2 min read

Meads was a no-nonsense player who is fondly remembered for his physical approach to the game of rugby. Known as “Pinetree” for his immense presence on the field, he was named the New Zealand player of the 20th century by the New Zealand Rugby Union in 1999.

Never a prolific try scorer (he only scored seven test match tries), his fame came from his uncompromising style and never say die attitude. His no-nonsense approach became legendary in an era when people played for the love of the game rather than money, there were no TV replays, and substitutes were not allowed. Meeting him in the front row or at the bottom of a ruck was a lifechanging experience for many an opposition player.

Meads was perfectly suited to the unsanitized rugby of the 1960s and 1970s. During a career that spanned more than a decade (1955-1971), he took the field 133 times for the All Blacks, including 55 test matches and 11 as captain. Playing most frequently as a lock, but also as a flanker and number 8, he maintained an unwavering passion for the black shirt and what it meant to represent his country.

His desire to do New Zealand proud was captured perfectly in a2017 interview when he said: “I always thought the All Black jersey was sacred and you only put it on when you were going to war”

His power and ability to play on through almost anything quickly became legendary. In a match against Eastern Transvaal, he played on after breaking his arm during a particularly frantic ruck. At the end of the match, he famously said, “at least we won the bloody game”.

Growing up on a sheep farm in the rural New Zealand town of Te Kuiti, he was the quintessential New Zealand man, and he quickly became a national icon. Rugby writer Lindsay Knight wrote that "as a sporting legend Meads is New Zealand's equivalent of Australia's Sir Donald Bradman or the USA’s Babe Ruth”.

Meads was made a New Zealand Companion of Merit (the equivalent of a knighthood) in 2001, and then dubbed ‘Sir’ in 2009 when the New Zealand government reintroduced the former system of titles. He stated, however, that unlike his former team-mates Wilson Whineray and Brian Lochore, he didn't want to be addressed as Sir. They, he argued, deserved the title as they were “perfect gentlemen”, whereas he was “a bit rougher”.

He left a true legacy and showed how the game should be played - hard on the field and humble off it.

In June 2017, Meads attended the unveiling in Te Kuiti of a larger-than-life bronze statue of himself with ball in hand. He died of pancreatic cancer two months later, aged 81.

All Black #583: Sir Colin Meads (1936-2017) - one of the greats of the game.

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