30 Dec 2017

I'm still BeeGee

6:53 am on 30 December 2017

The phone message says 'Hi BeeGee here' and even though the former All Blacks is now Sir Bryan, it won't be changing.

Bryan Williams, CNZM, MBE has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

It will still be BeeGee

The phone message will still say 'BeeGee' Photo: Photosport

Sir Bryan played for the All Blacks from 1970-1978 and provincial rugby for Auckland but he likes to think his latest honour is recognition for his service to his club Ponsonby, where he's been a member since 1960, and grassroots rugby in general.

He has held a number of positions on the Ponsonby club committee and remains a member of it today.

He established a rugby academy at Mount Albert Grammar school and served as director until 2012 and is also a trustee of the New Zealand Rugby Foundation.

Sir Bryan said he's humbled by the latest honour.

"This one has come out of the blue. Someone in high places must like me," he chuckled.

Bryan Williams.

Bryan Williams. Photo: Photosport

"I've been involved at all levels of rugby but the grassroots level is something which has always been important to me and my club Ponsonby has played a big part in my journey and I have loved being part of that club for the past 57 years.

"I've always been someone who tried my best and tried to be best I could be and that fact that someone else is willing to acknowledge that is obviously very satisfying from a personal point of view...but rugby is such a great game and I am happy to be ambassador for such a great game."

Sir Bryan said he wants people to keep calling him 'BeeGee'.

"On formal occasions some people might use the 'Sir' but I don't think my wife will and I don't think my kids will, it will be an array of different names some of them not all that complimentary," he laughed.

His wife Lesley, they met when they were teenagers, should also be recognised - "she's the one that really deserves a medal."

Bryan Williams and his wife Lesley.

Bryan Williams and his wife Lesley. Photo: Photosport

It's been a big year for BeeGee - the number one sports field at Mount Albert Grammar was also officially named after him this year.

"I find the older I get, the more these things seem to come along...and people probably feel they probably better do it before I move on.'

Reflecting on the past 20 years of rugby being professional, Sir Bryan said he had no regrets he played during an amateur era.

"I've discussed it my playing mates and I think we are pretty satisfied we played during the amateur era. We had to make our own way in life. We had to get a career, an apprenticeship or whatever and we learnt about work ethic and bringing up a family, budgeting and we had to learn to do something other than rugby and that has served us all pretty well."

Bryan Williams playing against the 1977 British and Irish Lions.

Bryan Williams playing against the 1977 British and Irish Lions. Photo: Photosport

Williams said he does have concerns about the future of rugby at club level.

"Back in my day All Blacks would play club rugby all the time. I would come back from a test match on Saturday and turn out for Ponsonby on a Sunday at Eden Park and the young fellas would rugby shoulders with the top players and learn from them.

"That doesn't happen now which is a shame but I'm a realist and you move on."

He hopes New Zealand Rugby strategic goal of making rugby the sport of choice for young people in Auckland comes to fruition.

"That's going to take some doing. We have had this issue in rugby for a while now where particularly boys leaving secondary school tend to leave rugby behind and they don't get involved again so that is a great challenge for the game, trying to keep those 18 and 19 year olds still involved in the game because that's the future."