New Zealand rugby greats inducted into IRB Hall of Fame

Getty Images     23 Aug 2014     Getty Images

They were All Blacks greats Fred Allen, Don Clarke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Grant Fox, Ian Kirkpatrick, Michael Jones, John Kirwan, Colin Meads, Graham Mourie and George Nepia. Legendary sports journalist Terry McLean was also recognised.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew told the gathering that all had “contributed enormously to our game here in New Zealand and across the globe.

“Those here tonight know better than most, the world class and often unique talent we have had play for and contribute to New Zealand Rugby.”

It was a night of rekindled memories and mateship and a time to remember how much had changed in the game.

Former Captain Graham Mourie remembered being named in the team for the first time.

“My father bowled up while I was feeding the pigs and said, ‘you’re playing the Lions in Dunedin on Saturday.’”

He summed up what it meant to be an All Black.

“When you are an All Black, you want to be the best you could be. The great thing about being an All Black is about playing with 14 others who do their job.”

Legendary loosie and former captain Ian Kirkpatrick recalled the changing physicality of the game. “We never threw weights around.”

“I am in total awe, I was a fat little kid from Sacred Heart….I was just lucky,” said Sean Fitzpatrick. Sitting with Michael Jones alongside Colin Meads and Kirkpatrick on stage he said: “To be part of these guys I very special, I grew up watching these guys playing rugby and to be alongside them is wonderful.”

“We are so in awe of sitting here with the icons that went before us” said Jones who scored the first try of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, and on debut. He recalled being named in the All Blacks for the first time.

“It was the privilege of living the dream and being cognisant that you were stepping into big shoes, knowing there was a huge responsibility.”

Six inductees attended in person, while five were represented by family members.

“It is great news that agreement has now been reached to amalgamate the two into one internationally recognised entity – the IRB Hall of Fame which is owned and administered by the IRB,” said Tew.

“This is a great outcome for our game as we bring the responsibility of judging, preserving and chronicling significant contribution to our games history and heritage together under the one body.”

The inductees join New Zealanders already part of the IRB Hall of Fame including Jonah Lomu, Sir Gordon Tietjens, Sir Wilson Whineray and David Kirk as well as the 1888 Natives Team.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The IRB Hall of Fame recognises those who have made an indelible mark on our sport through feats on the field of play, displays of great character or through their tireless and inspirational work in driving forward our great Game.

“The All Blacks are globally recognised throughout all sport. A truly iconic symbol of excellence, New Zealand rugby has provided some of the greatest individual players and impressive sides ever to grace a rugby field. These 11 inductees are each true greats in their own right and have made a positive impression on the sport that will last the test of time.”