There was plenty of excellent coverage from the media in the wake of the tragic passing (surely no exaggeration in that) of Sir Colin Meads. The balance was almost perfect in the reflections on, and accounts of, the iconic man’s deeds on the field and off.
One aspect that was very gratifying to note was the consistent mentioning of Colin’s wife, Verna. That fine woman must have been one pretty special lady to have uncomplainingly and openly welcomed hundreds upon hundreds (or thousands?) of visitors to the Meads household over the years. Most would say it was the natural thing to do, but even so it can’t have been easy at times. Plaudits to the media then- for showing that they appeared to at least recognise that fact amongst all their epitaphs.
One quirky statistic to emerge from the Meads rugby career was the fact that on his provincial debut for King Country in 1955 as a teenager, Colin scored a try…and kicked a drop goal. The mind raced back to the days of the multi-skilled Zinzan Brooke. That was just the cream on the cake to read that. That could only really have been Meads who would have been the one to perform such a feat on debut as a very young forward, you would suspect. And at a time too when forwards weren’t supposed to ever be as audacious as that.
Really, ‘Pinetree’ really was a forward ahead of his time- any loose forward and possibly plenty of backs also would have loved the ball skills he possessed. The fact is his he spent more time on the blindside flank than at lock in the early days of his All Black career. The famous try versus Border in 1970 in South Africa is the perfect showcase of the prowess of Meads as a great ball handler and athletic specimen. It’s no wonder then that along with his omnipresent ruggedness and uncompromising play, that our Pinetree is possibly the greatest to have ever laced up a pair of boots. His legend alone would almost be enough to declare that.
If you really want to know more about the kind of fellowship or even outright worship that ‘Pinetree’ engendered, then set aside a bit of time and have a listen to quite possibly the best interview you will hear in the wake of his passing- Martin Devlin talking to Peter Keane of the No. 5 Club, (apologies if I’ve butchered the spelling of Peter’s last name). Go to radiosport.co.nz. Then ‘ondemand’ to ‘week on demand’ for Tues 22nd Aug. Timeslot: 10.30am…interview commences at around 2’58. Just the best stories ever, guarantee you will be transfixed.
And what ‘Pinetree’ means to me? A lot. I wanted to meet him and wish I had been able to- Last year I got as far as a phone call to the King Country Union in the hope of travelling down to interview him, but never got as far as organising it. And when the news became public about his cancer, I reasoned I didn’t want to be an imposition on him.
Two great old knights have passed within a short time of each other- the mighty Meads and just a couple of weeks before, Sir John Graham. Beneath their rather gruff exteriors both men showed in their lives after Rugby that they possessed that most beautiful and noble of qualities that one will ever find in a human being- compassion. Colin Meads in his work with the IHC and in famously always accommodating anyone who wished to be in his company, And John Graham- for guiding thousands of young men and actively telling them how important it was to show love to each other.
Both were gallant by definition, as true knights have always been in historical legend. And they will both be much lamented by a great many.