adidas All Blacks AIG Logo



Lynn McConnell

Southland-born Lynn McConnell is a sportswriter/historian with 40 years experience in journalism having been sports editor of The Evening Post and The Southland Times. Lynn has written several books including 'Behind the Silver Fern: Playing Rugby for New Zealand' together with Tony Johnson.

Read more exclusive columns

In Memoriam: New Zealand Rugby remembers

Getty Images

Lynn McConnell     21 Dec 2017     Getty Images

Few, if any, could match the status achieved during his lifetime of Sir Colin Meads, who died on August 20. A mighty totem in the New Zealand, and world, game his life was marked by his commitment on the field and his generosity off it.


His playing record saw him regarded as the All Black of the 20th Century and in spite of being ordered off against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1967, his career accelerated when many thought the opposite would happen. His ability to run with the ball set him apart from the forwards of his era and he played some of his finest rugby when influenced by the changes coach Sir Fred Allen ushered into the All Blacks game.

Captaincy was thrust upon him for the lost 1971 series against the British & Irish Lions. The captaincy was not something he wanted but in spite of the loss his stature never diminished.

Once his playing career was completed his involvement continued through coaching and administration. He became an All Blacks manager and selector and a New Zealand Rugby Union councillor among other things.

Throughout all that he was also a central fundraising figure for charity which increased his standing even more among a wider section of society.

A few weeks before his death, on August 2, another significant contributor to the game in New Zealand, and a teammate of Meads, Sir John Graham died.

Also an All Blacks Test captain, Graham enjoyed a distinguished playing career in the late-1950s and early-1960s, making tours to South Africa (1960) and Britain and France (1963-64) and appearing in 22 Tests.

He also coached to provincial level with Auckland, in two different periods, but it was possibly in his involvement in schoolboys rugby through his headmastership of Auckland Grammar that his most lasting influence on the game was felt.

New Zealand Secondary Schools Rugby advanced from the early-1980s to the point where it is now a cornerstone of the national game. His work in this area, in providing his guidance and counsel to the NZRU on occasions and his playing record was reflected in his being made president of NZR in 2004-05 which included the staging of the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour.

Two former All Blacks coaches also died during the year. Eric Watson who served in 1979-80 died on March 25 while the man who replaced him for the 1981-82 seasons Peter Burke, died on October 2.

Watson, from Otago, took over the coaching when his predecessor Jack Gleeson fell ill and while the All Blacks had some rocky experiences, including losing the Bledisloe Cup in 1979, he took the side to Wales for the centenary tour and saw the All Blacks claim an outstanding 23-3 win over their old rivals.

Burke, was an All Black in the 1950s and a leader in the strong Taranaki Ranfurly Shield-winning side of the late-1950s. He coached the All Blacks to their series win over the 1981 Springboks in New Zealand.

Seventeen-Test All Black Sione Lauaki died on February 12. A powerful, hard-running No.8 Lauaki made his appearances between 2005-08 from his Chiefs Super Rugby side.
Doug Rollerson, a utility back who played first five-eighths or fullback, died on May 3. He played eight Tests and appeared in 24 games overall. He was in the first All Blacks side which toured Argentina in 1976 and then toured Wales in 1980 and played against the Springboks in 1981. Rollerson was a member of the successful Manawatu Ranfurly Shield team of the late-1970s.

On April 20, Sandy McNicol, a prop forward from Wanganui was called into the All Blacks during the 1972-73 tour of Britain and France, played five times for the side.

Hooker Terry McCashin died on October 31. He first made his mark with the New Zealand Under-23 team which toured Australia in 1964 and then toured Australia with the All Blacks in 1968 playing in seven games. He was hooker reserve to Bruce McLeod in 1968 and against Wales in 1969.

One test All Black loose forward Tom Coughlan passed away on November 9. Although Coughlan only played one Test for the All Blacks, he played in 14 All Blacks trials between 1953 and 1961. He is remembered as one of the greats of South Canterbury rugby with 76 appearances in an era when representative commitments were limited.

Two Junior All Blacks also died during the year. Murray Ball, famous for his subsequent career in cartooning where he created the iconic Footrot Flats, played for the Juniors in 1959 as a five-eighths. He died on March 12 while prop Doug Murcott, who played eight games for the NZ Juniors in 1979-80 died on July 25.