Paul Delaney a humble one-man-band

16:00, Oct 12 2012
VERSATILE: Paul Delany’s community contributions included practical work overseas on VSA projects.

Paul Delaney

b Wellington, July 11, 1939;

m Jocelyn Jones, 2s 2d;

d Paraparaumu, October 5, 2012, aged 73.

Paul Delaney lived his life as a humble one-man-band plumber but in July 1965 he was part of Wellington rugby's finest-ever victory.

He was a forward selected to lock the Wellington scrum alongside Nev MacEwan in the team which humiliated the ultimate opponent, South Africa, 23-6 at Athletic Park. It was a win achieved via ruthless power in the forwards and control in the backline.


Mr Delaney was ready for this big match. He had been singled out in 1959 as a player to watch by future Rugby Union chairman Tom Morrison.

Mr Delaney was a quiet, modest man who Wellington assistant coach Ivan Vodanovich nicknamed "flange". He was also known as "pop" to his family and "Mr Delaney" (to rugby opponents mindful of their physical welfare).

The "flange" nickname stuck among his sporting mates partly because of his powerful binding ability in lineouts and scrums.

He was raised in Ngaio, the eldest of five boys in a family of six. His sister, Anne Morrish, is the oldest sibling and his surviving brothers are Peter, Gerard, Dennis and Terry.

The hills of Ngaio were the childhood playground for the man who is regarded as the finest rugby forward ever produced by the former Onslow Club. In his younger days, Mr Delaney broke the ice on behalf of his siblings when it came to climbing the pine tree at the bottom of the family's section. He was also the first of them to walk the pipe over a nearby creek bed.

He spent just two years at St Patrick's College in Cambridge Tce before leaving secondary school to take up a plumbing apprenticeship with his no-nonsense father Tom.

He inherited toughness from his father and sporting coordination from his mother who was a member of the well-known McLauchlan tennis playing family from Petone.

Brother Peter, a carpenter, was another to achieve success on an international sporting stage when he won a gold medal as a member of New Zealand's rowing eight at the world championships in Montreal in 1967.

Paul Delaney was content to let his deeds as a family man, a rugby player and a plumber do the talking for him.

On the field he was a "captain justice" type figure. Like his captain in the Wellington team, prop forward Ken Gray, he never initiated trouble but if anyone went looking for it they discovered they had come to the right place.

A quietly self-assured, confident, unflustered and humble man, the plumber was never one to blow his own trumpet or panic when the burst pipes called him.

In latter years before the onset of illness he enjoyed tramping with his wife, brothers and family.

As a plumber there was nothing he enjoyed more than working with his carpenter brothers Peter and Terry when plumbing out houses built by them.

He and his wife Jocelyn raised a family of two boys and two girls and it was typical of the man that in between times he also worked overseas on Volunteer Service Abroad-type projects in Papua New Guinea and Samoa.

As a tradesman at home he always had a project on the go. He loved knocking things down, digging things up or simply painting his house.

In his latter years, before succumbing to a combination of Alzheimer's and motor neuron disease, he never regretted the fact he was born in an amateur rugby era and missed out on a potentially lucrative rugby playing contract.

"I would never have wanted to play rugby for a living. Rugby was my weekend relaxation," he once told his Onslow team-mate and one-time former neighbour in Otaki, Bruce Heather.

Mr Delaney would also often jokingly say to his no-nonsense plumbing mates he wanted to be thrown in to a van and buried in a cardboard box when he died.

This fiercely competitive sportsman on the field but gentle giant off it almost got his wish. For he was taken to the crematorium at Paraparaumu on Wednesday (in a coffin – not a cardboard box) in the back of a "Delaney Plumbers" van driven by his Tauranga-based plumber son Andrew.

He is survived by his wife Jocelyn and children Chris, Andrew, Lisa and Jo.

Sources: Jocelyn Delaney, Peter Delaney, Chris Delaney, Bruce Heather, Eddie Tonks and Brian Coulter

The Dominion Post