Colin Meads

Colin Meads

Colin “Pinetree” Meads. Tough. All Black legend. Lock. Used to trim his hedge with a lawn-mower. Passionate about the black jumper with the silver fern emblem.


I grew up in New Zealand in the 1960s to early 70s when Colin Meads was part of a really fine New Zealand All Black rugby union team of similar talent to the current All Blacks.

In the 1960s, Sid Going at half back, Ron Clark at fullback, Brian Lochore at no 8 and Colin Meads at lock formed the core of All Black talent and All Black leadership. Later in the early seventies talent like Bryan Williams and Grant Batty, two of New Zealand’s most talented wingers came along.

Sid Going was a very talented and elusive half-back and Brian Lochore a tough and solid forward. Colin Meads was a tough farmer and a tall strong man who was tough and fearless and a powerful forward.

The nemesis of the All Blacks was South Africa and I remember going to a game at Athletic Park about 1970 when the anti-apartheid movement was strong. The Springboks beat New Zealand 6-0 from memory. So the All Blacks back then were great but not invincible.

Was Colin Meads was the greatest All Black? I don’t like to rate All Black talent like that.

There have been so many great All Blacks in various positions. Bryan Williams for example had an ability like David Campese to side-step and swerve around players. Colin Meads took more the the straight path like Jonah Lomu- into or straight over the body of the opposition. Grant Batty had an insane side-step. Sid Going was fast, deceptive and elusive and could conjure a try out of nothing.

Then there’s later All Black talent like Christian Cullen, who at his peak could cut through a team like Australians David Campese or Mark Ella. And there have been forwards like Iceman Michael Jones who would have played more tests if he’d played on Sundays. His religious beliefs banned playing on Sundays. He was the greatest New Zealand flanker. Richie McCaw was a great rucker and “fetcher” when younger, but Michael Jones was greater at getting over the ball and securing it or doing amazing athletic manoeuvres and tackles. Michael Jones as a greater “fetcher” even than Australian David Pocock.

So Colin Meads was a legend and a good solid New Zealand bloke. Not the type to have marital affairs or “be a dickhead”. A good solid Te Kuiti farmer. Te Kuiti is in a remote part of the King Country east of New Plymouth. It’s still a remote area. Hilly lush green sheep country. Full of remote farms. Very cold, rainy and wet in winter.

Colin Meads was known as “Pinetree Meads” because he was so tough. It’s said he used to trim his hedge with a lawn mower. I recall seeing a picture in the Wellington Post back in the 1960s of Colin Meads cutting his hedge with a lawnmower.

I was mad about rugby as a child and young man, and Colin Meads was certainly a hero of mine, and part of the New Zealand rugby folk-lore. As I’ve grown older I’ve realised how rugby is just a game and there are far more important things in life. However, even though I’ve lived in Australia 36 years, longer by a decade more than  in New Zealand, I still support and identify with the All Blacks. Most New Zealanders are like this.

Rugby Heaven

Sir Colin Meads – great All Black, terrific competitor, icon of the game gallery

During his playing days, Colin Meads was recognised throughout the world as the face of New Zealand rugby.



Sir Colin Earl Meads was no giant, yet his colossal shadow stretched around the globe even before opponents were exposed to his ferocity on the rugby fields.

Standing 1.92m and weighing around 100kg, the King Country farmer, by modern-day standards, would probably be classified as too short to be an international lock.

The athletic Meads, though, fitted the role perfectly during his All Blacks’ career which began against New South Wales in Sydney in 1957 and ended 14 years later when he captained the All Blacks to a 14-all draw in the fourth and final test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland.

Uncompromising, determined and brave, his deft handling skills offered value in the lineout or when running the ball towards defenders unfortunate enough to be confronted with the task of felling the mighty “Pinetree”.

All Blacks lock Colin Meads, pictured challenging French halfback Pierre Lacroix in the third test played in ...


All Blacks lock Colin Meads, pictured challenging French halfback Pierre Lacroix in the third test played in Christchurch in 1961, was always a competitor no matter whether he was playing a test match or in a club game.

Meads, it seemed, could do it all and the shortening of the days prior to each winter coincided with his reputation being enhanced in New Zealand and overseas.

He wasn’t indestructible, but those who played with or against him, or observed his skills from the great stadiums in locations such as South Africa, Great Britain, Ireland, France and Australia, couldn’t help but marvel at his ability to keep that great engine ticking over inside the black jersey.

The broken arm he suffered against Eastern Transvaal in Springs during the tour of South Africa in 1970 epitomised his uncompromising attitude.

Colin Meads in action against South Africa, in the first test against South Africa in 1979, in Port Elizabeth.


Colin Meads in action against South Africa, in the first test against South Africa in 1979, in Port Elizabeth.

Of course it didn’t help that a doctor misdiagnosed the injury on the sideline, confidently stating the bone wasn’t broken and that Meads should return to the action and continue playing.

Meads, who stated he had deliberately been kicked by an opponent while in a ruck, knew he was in strife from the moment leather struck skin. In the book, Colin Meads All Black, the pain was described as “an urgent screaming thing driving up his arm to the shoulder”; yet he continued to soldier on through to the final whistle.

After the game X-rays revealed what was termed a “dirty big break”. It was at that point in time, without doubt, the most talked about arm in world rugby.

Colin Meads in action, June 1970.

Evening Post

Colin Meads in action, June 1970.

Doctors offered varying estimates of when he should return, a friend from King Country purchased some horse liniment in the promise it would help the busted bone knit back together and members of the Fourth Estate filled many column inches about the injury to the great Meads. Everyone, it seemed, had their say.

Nine games later Meads returned to the playing fields again, his arm cocooned in a protective leather case as he led the All Blacks against South-Western Districts at George.

When picked for the third test against the Springboks the scrutiny intensified, and Meads later admitted that he was so conscious of the debate about his limb that it affected his form during the defeat in Port Elizabeth.

Colin Meads at home on the farm.


Colin Meads at home on the farm.

 He was no saint, and never promoted himself as one.

Irish referee Kevin Kelleher ordered Meads off for dangerous play during the test against Scotland in Edinburgh in 1967, deeming he had aimed a kick at opposition first five-eighth David Chisholm who was swiftly moving across the field to collect the ball.

Meads, for his part, said he stretched out and nudged the pill, not Chisholm, with his foot.

Sir Colin Meads MBE, at home in Te Kuiti in April.


Sir Colin Meads MBE, at home in Te Kuiti in April.

The sight of Meads, his head swathed in bandages to protect a nasty cut he had copped courtesy of a French boot in an earlier match, walking from Murrayfield quickly had the sports writers pecking their keyboards in frantic haste. This was some story, for sure.

Some believed Kelleher had been too hasty, and harsh, in his judgement.

“We are, at this moment, seized by a great anger,” wrote Frenchman Denis Lalanne. “No one can soil or shame the great name of Colin Meads.”

Upon transferring to Wales the following day, Meads was flooded with letters, cables and telegrams from supporters in Britain and beyond who offered their sympathies for what had happened in Edinburgh.

Meads, for his part, bore no grudge. Later he and Kelleher were to exchange Christmas cards each year.

Meads was involved in a number of other scrapes, none more controversial than the act of pulling Wallaby halfback Ken Catchpole from a ruck which resulted in a serious injury in 1968.

In an era before TV cameras filmed every movement, the players were given licence to sort out their differences between themselves and Meads wasn’t never going to concede to anyone.

Former All Blacks team-mate Fergie McCormick might have had the No 15 stitched on to the back of his jersey, but his aggressive in-your-face style ensured he was often caught-up in enough rucks to witness Meads encouraging those around him.

“There was only thing in his mind and that was the fact he was playing for New Zealand. Losing never came into his mind, it was never part of the equation,” McCormick said. “He was bloody tough and I mean it. A bulldozer could roll over him and he would still just get him and keep going.

“When I say that, I mean he was tough at no matter what he did. Whether it was playing rugby or working on the farm, it was just the calibre of the man.”

Raw-boned and uncompromising, for sure, but McCormick also says Meads offered suggestions when tactics should be changed, as he did when he suggested to the fullback that he should hoist up and unders against the Welsh in Christchurch in 1969.

Meads was also a people’s person. He enjoyed a beer, his ability to soak up the amber refreshments were legendary, and even as the hours ticked by he remained convivial company.

He could also just as easily chat to an old woman or a young kid down the street.

“Off the field he had that ability to just mix with anyone,” McCormick said. “It was just the way he was.”

 – Stuff