2 Aug 2010

NZ sporting great Eric Tindill dies

9:59 pm on 2 August 2010

Eric Tindill, one of New Zealand's most illustrious sportsmen, has died. He was 99.

Tindill, the world's longest-living test cricketer and the oldest surviving All Black, died in Wellington on Sunday.

Of New Zealand's seven double rugby-cricket internationals, he was the only one to have played tests in both sports.

Born in 1910, Tindill worked as a public servant and represented New Zealand in the days of amateurism, when public servants were paid half their salaries when playing overseas and received three shillings a day for expenses.

He disagreed with the move to professionalism and doubted that today's players had more enjoyment from their sport than he did. He believed in playing for the love of the game and for the honour.

Tindill played 17 times for the All Blacks between 1935 and 1938, but made only one test appearance - against England at Twickenham in 1935.

In 1937, he took the second step in his international sporting career, making his test cricket debut against England at Lords.

His international career was disrupted by World War II and he next played cricket for New Zealand in 1946 and again in 1947. He played five tests in those 10 years. He also represented Wellington in soccer and table tennis.

When his playing days ended, Tindill turned to officiating, with great success. He umpired test cricket, refereed test rugby, was a national cricket selector, treasurer of the New Zealand Boxing Council and wrote two books about rugby.

He preferred rugby to cricket, although his cricket playing days had their moments, including catching out the legendary Sir Donald Bradman in a game against South Australia.

In 1995 Tindill was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and in 2000 received the Halberg Award for services to sport.

Tributes for Tindill

Former rugby and cricket commentator and first-class cricketer Iain Gallaway knew Tindill when he was a young cricketer in Otago.

He told Radio Zealand's Afternoons programme that Tindill was New Zealand's greatest all-round sportsman.

"It's quite remarkable when you think of the fact that he toured England in the 1935-36 All Blacks and then went back a little more than a year later with the New Zealand cricketers of 1937. It's quite remarkable isn't it to have two overseas full tours of the United Kingdom.

"I don't think there's ever been a greater all-round athlete and there's never been a more modest, self-effacing person. He was one of the loveliest men I ever met."

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen says Tindill was one of a kind.

"It's sad that he didn't get to his ton, but our condolences go out to his family and we're all thinking of them."