Obituary: Rugby legend Sir Colin Meads remembered, after losing battle with cancer

Sir Colin Meads, who has died aged 81 due to pancreatic cancer, was a rugby union player widely regarded as New Zealand's greatest ever All Black and rugby's greatest knight.

New Zealand's greatest ever player lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Source: 1 NEWS

The hard-nosed lock played 133 matches for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971 and as a sporting legend is New Zealand's equivalent of Australia's Sir Donald Bradman or America's Babe Ruth.

His no-nonsense personality resonated with so many and his legendary global reputation has had years upon years to fester and develop.

Sir Colin became the personification of the New Zealand style of the game and he received just about every honour the game bestowed, including membership of the International Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Sporting Hall of Fame.

In 2009 Sir Colin, a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, accepted redesignation as a Knight Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit.

He was born in 1936 in Cambridge to parents Vere and Ida, who raised their three children on a sheep farm near Te Kuiti.

He was rugged and uncompromising and epitomised the nation and the rugby of his era, one which is in stark and somwhat nostalgic contrast to the way the game and society with it has evolved under professionalism.

New Zealand's greatest ever player lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Source: 1 NEWS

Sir Colin credited the farming lifestyle for his strong physique and high level of fitness. His brother, Stanley, played 30 matches as an All Black, with the pair playing together 11 times.

The nickname 'Pinetree' was given to him by team-mate Ken Briscoe when he toured Japan in 1958 with the New Zealand Under-23 team. At 1.92 m tall and tipping the scales at 100kg, Sir Colin was no bigger than many of his fellow players - the name was more a recognition of his overall physical presence. His son Glynn later played rugby for King Country, and became known as 'Pinecone'.

Sir Colin and his wife Verna have four other children: Karen, Kelvin, Rhonda and Shelley.

His career is the stuff of legends. In 1970 he famously played on during the 1970 All Blacks tour of South Africa with a broken arm thanks to a specially made leather brace. Needless to say, his playing style was physical and uncompromising.

Like all players prior to the professional era he did not become rich playing rugby. He also played in an era when substitutes were not allowed.

In 1971 Sir Colin captained the All Blacks to a series loss against the Lions and although he recovered from a serious back injury after a Land Drover accident late that year, he never played for the All Blacks again.

After his retirement he turned to administration and coaching. He became chairman of the King Country Union and during his term the representative side had a lengthy spell in the NPC first division. After selecting and coaching North Island sides he was elected to the national selection panel in 1986.

This turned out to be a brief appointment, though, for without the permission of the New Zealand Union he opted to go on the unauthorised Cavaliers tour of South Africa as coach. He was axed from the panel and for a time was persona non grata to the NZRU hierarchy.

However, as with just about all the Cavaliers, Sir Colin was soon forgiven and in 1992 was elected to the NZRU council which just six years before had chastised him. In 1994-95, including the World Cup tournament in South Africa in the latter year, he was the manager of the All Blacks.

When the NZRU council was replaced by a smaller board in 1996 Sir Colin dropped out of administration.

However, as his legend grew Sir Colin was continually seen by both media and public as a champion of the game's old values. He became a hugely successful and popular after-dinner speaker winning applause and national headlines with some of his down-to-earth, home spun wisdom.

Last year it was announced that the rugby great had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Sir Colin Meads, rugby player, born 3 June 1936; died August 20 2017.