- Publish Date
- Sunday, 20 August 2017, 7:49PM
Today's leaders of New Zealand rugby have paid tribute to a former great.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and captain Kieran Read have both shared their memories of Sir Colin Meads, following his passing today at the age of 81.
Meads left a large imprint on the All Blacks, with his legacy as a player, captain, selector, manager and mentor being articulated by the All Blacks leaders following in his footsteps.
"An absolute legend of the game," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. "It's always sad when one of the big kauri trees falls."
"I'll always remember him running around with a ball in one hand, he had such big mitts, and he was such an athletic guy for the position he played back in those days. They weren't meant to be that athletic, but he was; he was an incredible player."
Read also noted the skills that made Meads an overwhelming talent, and reflected on his relationship with one of the select few to hold the title of All Black captain.
"For me, he's that type of person who probably would have stood out today," said Read.
"A forward, ran like a back, [could] catch the ball in one hand, just an awesome man. [I] also had the pleasure to sit down with him a couple of times, he wasn't shy in having a beer, just having a good yarn, so just a top man to talk to. He'd give his time to anyone; it was just great to rub shoulders with a man like that.
"He realised what the game was like today, a slightly different game, but he was very encouraging. For a fellow All Black it was awesome to hear that from him."
In addition to his on-field prowess, Hansen reflected on Meads' legacy, and how he left his mark on an array of people.
"He was a coach, he was a manager for the All Blacks, at grassroots he was involved, so he didn't just play for the All Blacks, he didn't just play for King Country or his club, he actually gave back in many other ways as well. He was a true rugby man and I think that will be his legacy."
Read shared his personal memories of growing up in an era where Meads had already built his name into New Zealand rugby folklore.
"I guess the memories are from the snippets you saw on TV and the stories that were told. In the All Black environment he's an absolute legend.
"I remember we'd drive down from Counties to Taranaki probably twice a year to see my family, and Dad would always point out - I don't know if he knew it was true - but he'd always point out Pinetree's farm. As kids in the back seat, we always knew when it was coming - we knew exactly where his farm was."
Read also divulged what Meads meant to the All Blacks players.
"We have his image up in our team room most weeks - it reminds us of where we've come from and who we represent, and the type of people who have been before us. The boys appreciate what he's done for the team and the memories that he's created."
Meads' contributions extended to charities and councils, something New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew recalled.
"The contribution he made after he finished playing, both to the game where he filled virtually every role you can, around the team and certainly around the council table, and he also did a tremendous amount of work for the charities which were close to him - certainly the Rugby Foundation will miss his contribution dearly."
Tew confirmed that New Zealand Rugby would pay their respects to Meads before the second Bledisloe Cup test in Dunedin on Saturday.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.