21 Aug 2017

Colin Meads: Te Kuiti mourns its favourite son

12:00 pm on 21 August 2017

There is no mistaking Te Kuiti as the hometown of Sir Colin Meads.

A korowai has been placed around the statue of Sir Colin Meads in Te Kuiti.

The statue of Colin Meads in Te Kuiti has had a korowai placed around its shoulders. The All Blacks legend died on Sunday, aged 81. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Billboard-sized black and white photographs of his face beam out from sides of buildings and the parking lots of rugby clubs in the King Country town.

A larger-than-life bronze statue in his likeness looks ready to launch itself from the pavement and pound down the main strip, rugby ball firm in hand.

Newly-placed flowers now lie at the statue's boots.

To New Zealand, Sir Colin - who died on Sunday, aged 81 - was a sports star, and arguably the country's best ever All Black.

To Te Kuiti he was their favourite son.

At his local hangout - the Waitete Rugby Club - friends, family and players gathered to celebrate his life.

One of Sir Colin's best friends and a fellow lifetime rugby club member, Bud Snowden, remembered playing rugby together.

Charles Taituha, Waitete Rugby Club player.

Charles Taituha Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Mr Snowden said his mate, nicknamed Pinetree, was a great man.

"At the club he was just 'Tree to us. He was normal, just one of us."

Charles Taituha, another club player, said Sir Colin would always show up to watch the team's games, no matter the skill level or his health.

"For us as club members he was a man who set this whole club up, to be fair. We have to live up to the Colin Meads ethos, which is work hard, play hard - that's how we roll."

Peter Lange, sheep shearer and Te Kuiti local.

Peter Lange Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Peter Lange said Meads wasn't just famous for his rugby chops in Te Kuiti, he was considered an all-round community hero.

"He just did so much for the community in various ways. Fundraising and all that sort of stuff for different organisations. And what he did for IHC was just unbelievable. Raised thousands and thousands of dollars," he said.

"He was an iconic sort of person."

Shearing champion David Fagan, another Te Kuiti legend, said Sir Colin was an exceptional example to rugby players from Waikato to Wales.

"He was a workhorse but he had the X-factor. I guess in any sport you see really top sportsmen, but a few of them have got that X-factor and he had that in spades," Sir David said.

Sir David Fagan, fan and friend of Colin Meads.

David Fagan Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

"As we've seen in the last 30, 40 years, he's got it as a person as well. A community man and the respect he's got in this community is unbelievable.

"So he'll be sadly missed. But what a legacy he's left behind."

Sir David said this was a time to support the Meads family too.

"What we need to be mindful of is that he is a family man and his family's here in town travelling from all over the world.

"We just need to remember it's about the Meads family too even though I know New Zealand wants to share [in] everything," Sir David said.

"We have to share him with New Zealand, I guess, but our thoughts go out to the Meads family, for sure."

The funeral for Sir Colin will be held next Monday in Te Kuiti, starting at 1pm at the Les Munro centre.

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