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What makes the legendary Colin Meads the prototype for the most complete New Zealand rugby player ever

13th February, 2024
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Roar Guru
13th February, 2024
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If you had to describe the ultimate New Zealand rugby player to a non-rugby fan and use one player to support your argument, would Sir Colin Meads best represent your case?

Yes, in my opinion anyway. There would be support for the Richie McCaw’s, Dan Carter’s and Jonah Lomu’s of the modern rugby time, but I would suggest that Meads is more the complete package.

The modern-day players’ biggest fallibility is their link to professionalism and a gradual distancing from hardcore rugby fans. Meads typified the link between a high-profile player and his community rugby club, meeting your hero was a great inspiration.

For those of a certain vintage, you can name All Blacks or provincial players you met at an after-game function at your local club and still remember the occasion today. They were like gods and if you were not so tongue-tied, may have had a decent conversation with them.

There is a feeling that professionalism has created a gap between the local rugby community and the pro player, unlike back in the Meads era where All Blacks were more visible in the community through work and social activities.

What are the chances of catching a glimpse of a pro player today, apart from viewing them on pay television?

Not having known Meads, I would suggest he would have been happier playing in the amateur era rather than as a professional player.

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Gaining fitness and strength through work like farming was preferable to working out in a gymnasium. His warm-ups before a game relied upon the haka and there were no dieticians to scrutinise what a player ate before a match.

Former All Blacks coach and player, Brian Lochore quipped that today’s players hydrate before a game whereas those in their era drank after the game.

Meads was known to work so hard on the family farm, that he looked forward to the rugby season for a rest. It was a myth that he ran over the hills of his farm carrying a sheep under each arm.

Meads was the stereotypical New Zealand rugby player with humble, self-deprecating and reserved characteristics.

An NFL showman would be the complete opposite. Loyalty also being a prominent virtue of a player from that time. Meads typified the strong, rugged and uncompromising player from the 1960s and 70s.

Yes, he did transgress at times. Australians may interpret that in stronger terms after the well-documented Keith Catchpole incident.

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Colin Meads

New Zealand’s Colin Meads emerges from a loose maul with the ball in a Tour Match between London Counties v New Zealand at Twickenham (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Only those who saw Meads play regularly would confirm if he was the instigator or the one who responded to provocation.

He was reported to have punched British Lion David Watkins and Welshman Jeff Young in matches and was sent off in 1967 versus Scotland for dangerous play. If Meads was playing today the TMO would have earned his salary from watching him alone.

According to Roar writer Geoff Parkes who grew up in the King Country (New Zealand), “he was a tough bastard on the field, and I saw him and his brother Stan do some pretty unsavoury things to people who they thought were causing them trouble.”

But there was another side to Meads and examples of this were shared at his funeral in 2017 with his brother and fellow All Black locking partner Stan Meads saying Colin was “as soft as butter” who raised considerable funds for charities.

A hard man who once knitted a scarf and balaclava and who read Cat in the Hat to his children.

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NZ Rugby chairman Brent Impey said in the NZ Herald: “It goes without saying that Sir Colin is one of New Zealand’s special treasures – both as an All Black, but also as a great example of what it means to be a New Zealander. What we love about Sir Colin is that despite the international recognition and praise heaped on him, he just considers himself to be a guy from Te Kuiti.”

It is pointless to compare players from different eras, but I can never resist it. A player with Meads’ attributes would have been a superstar in today’s game.

Of course, he may not have stood up to the scrutiny, the social media attention and modern ways but with his strength, ruggedness and athleticism would have been an esteemed player. How many players today do you see running with the ball in one hand swatting off defenders?

A man who played on the wing for the All Blacks and as a loose forward and who kicked a drop goal for his beloved King Country.

For many, we can only remember Meads through YouTube highlights, but he appeared to be a fearsome runner with ball in hand demonstrating great ball skills.

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If you compare elite-level All Blacks from today and yesterday based on their old-fashioned rugby values, New Zealand pride, community support, ability as a skilful rugby player, all-round good guy with family values and choose the quintessential player, there is only one option, Sir Colin Meads.

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