Published: Sun, August 20, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

'Pinetree' felled. All Blacks great Meads dies aged 81

'Pinetree' felled. All Blacks great Meads dies aged 81

"A legend of New Zealand's game and it's always sad when one of the big Kauri trees falls and that's what's happened".

The legendary hardman, with a reputation for training by running up hills with a sheep under each arm, played 133 games, including 55 Tests, during his 14 years with the All Blacks until his retirement in 1971.

There are as yet unconfirmed reports this afternoon that Sir Colin Meads, who has been battling pancreatic cancer, has died.

Meads was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer past year and he took a typically combative attitude towards it, vowing to "beat the bastard".

In a team stacked full of players considered some of the greats of New Zealand and world rugby, Meads was the man elevated to global renown, much as Jonah Lomu would be in the 1990s and indeed McCaw in the 2000s.

"I thought I'd give it a go. He was no-nonsense, reliable, hardworking, warm and very generous with his time", English said.

It prompted immediate tributes from the rugby community and beyond for the man known as "Pinetree". Meads played at a time when rugby was an amateur game and, having to leave his family farm to travel with the All Blacks on tours which were often several months in duration, he experienced financial disadvantage to represent his country's most famous team. "He loved being an All Black and he loved his family dearly", Meads' youngest daughter, Shelley Mitchell, said in a statement released by the family.

He was regarded as one of the sport's greatest players, named New Zealand Player of the Century in 1999. We will miss him.

He made infrequent public appearances after his diagnosis but was well enough in June to attend the unveiling of a 2.7m statue crafted in his honour in home town Te Kuiti.

He played for the tiny Waitete club and for King Country province.

Continued to play for two more seasons before retiring in 1973 after having played a total of 361 first class matches, a record that stood until Keven Mealamu surpassed it in 2015.

Veitch said Sir Colin was arguably our greatest ever rugby player. He retired from global rugby in 1971 after captaining a young All Blacks team to their first ever series loss to the British and Irish Lions.

"Sir Colin is an icon of rugby and New Zealand".

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