Sir Colin Meads: How a rugged Te Kuiti rugby player forged the legacy of Pinetree

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Sir Colin Meads for many was an icon of the gritty, physical game of old rugby, but what stories led to such a legacy? 

He 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.

And like The Don or the Great Bambino, Pinetree has tales that will last the tests of time to keep his legacy as the personified version of All Blacks rugby and heartland culture.

Lion-tamer of 1966

Bryan Williams says Sir Colin played a huge role in his own rugby career, especially when it came to how All Blacks should behave on the pitch.
Source: 1 NEWS

After 133 matches, narrowing a standout performance to remember Sir Colin by is simply too hard to do. Instead, we'll remember a superb squad that Pinetree had a heavy influence on.

The 1966 Lions Tour was a mixed bag for the Lions - they won their first two Tests across the ditch against Australia, but received a rude awakening in the shape of four series-sweeping losses to the All Blacks once they touched down on New Zealand shores.

In fairness though, when you're facing a forward pack consisting of Jack Hazlett, Bruce McLeod and Ken Gray in the front row, the Meads brothers of Sir Colin and Stan at locks and a loose forward trio consisting of Waka Nathan, Kel Tremain and Brian Lochore, it is not going to be an easy task.

That forward pack went unchanged in the 4-0 sweep of the Lions as the All Blacks won 20-3, 16-12, 19-6 and 24-11 in Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland respectively.

The gritty, unrelenting style Sir Colin was famous for did get him into trouble in the final Test though after he laid out captain David Watkins with a punch for reasons only the two of them seem to know about.

Regardless, the forward pack of 1966 features some of the All Blacks' greatest so who else would be at the middle of it all than the Te Kuiti hardman?

A Scottish Send-off

Fastforward a year and Sir Colin was still getting himself into trouble - although this time he went down in the history books as only the second ever All Black to be sent off in a Test for his actions.

Murrayfield, 1967; the All Blacks were playing against Scotland.

Sir Colin had been warned early in the match fifty years ago by Irish referee Kevin Kelleher for recklessly attempting to kick a loose ball when a Scottish player had dived on the ground for it, so when the All Black lock did it a second time in the match to Scottish flyhalf David Chisholm, the ref had no choice.

Kelleher immediately called in Sir Colin as the Murrayfield crowd made their voices heard with boos from the stands.

The ref pointed to the sideline to give Sir Colin his marching orders since the concept of yellow and red cards weren't introduced until three years later at the 1970 FIFA World Cup.

Though Sir Colin turned back to plead his case, he finally accepted the decision and made his way to the sideline with his head down as just the second All Black in history to be sent off in a match.

The All Blacks still went on to win the game 14-3.

Late Kiwi sports journalist Sir Terry McLean revealed some years later Chisholm sought out Meads to say the decision by ref was harsh.

All Blacks Captain #39

Kieran Read said Mead wasn't just a great New Zealand player but was an outstanding international rugby player in his time playing in the black jersey.
Source: 1 NEWS

Sir Colin didn't need the title to be recognised as a leader in the All Blacks, but while playing alongside two of the team's most respected skippers in Wilson Whineray and Sir Brian Lochore, he didn't exactly need to officially fill the role either.

However, following Lachore's retirement in 1971, Pinetree finally stepped up to lead - he would lead the side for 11 matches in his career.

It wasn't exactly the best start to his captaining career though after the touring Lions side from that year became the first, and only, side to secure a winning tour.

The tourists were a strong side and coached by Carwyn Jones and after snatching two of the first three games of the tour, held their mantle to claim the series with a 14-14 draw at Eden Park.

Sir Colin also captained the team during tours of Britain and South Africa before finally hanging up his boots at the end of 1971.

No pain, no glory

Rugby writer Phil Gifford theorises if Sir Colin's play-style could fit into the current All Black.
Source: Breakfast

Finally, this collection of memoirs of a bruising, relentless giant wouldn't be complete without the South African Tour of 1970 and that broken arm.

Sir Colin broke his arm during a game against Eastern Transvaal but played on, claiming the injury was only a pinched nerve.

The team went on to win that game 24-3 but lost Sir Colin for a month and nine games in total.

However, he returned for the final two Tests against the Springboks, donning a poor excuse for an armguard to try and protect any further injury.

"Of course, that wouldn't happen today. ACC wouldn't allow you to play," he said years later.

The barnstorming lock from Te Kuiti who's skills on the field were only matched by his wise words off it - the everlasting legacy of Pinetree.

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