Community rallies for wedding of dying former Junior All Black Doug Murcott

Doug Murcott and Sally Tolliday, shown earlier this year, plan to get married next month.
MARTIN DE RUYTER

Doug Murcott and Sally Tolliday, shown earlier this year, plan to get married next month.

Doug Murcott's dying wish to wed his partner looks set to be fulfilled thanks to community spirit.

The former Southland and Junior All Black prop is a shadow of his burly self after throat cancer has taken its toll. 

Last year, the 58-year-old proposed to his partner of 10 years, Sally Tolliday, and she said yes.

But less than six months later, the Nelson couple found out Murcott's days were numbered. In November doctors gave him less than a year to live when he was diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer of the oesophagus.

READ MORE: Former junior All Black Doug Murcott reeling from deportation and cancer diagnosis

Tolliday said when they first met in Australia Murcott was 95kg, "a good solid build" who could "easily lift me onto his shoulders".

Now, Tolliday is the one doing the lifting, taking care of Murcott who she guessed now weighed about 65kg. He has morphine patches for his pain and spends a lot of his time in bed with Sally by his side.

Wedding planning "went into the background" Tolliday said "because everything about the cancer was just so full on". 

But the pair now have their special day to look forward to thanks to the kindness of the community.

She said a few weeks ago "it struck a chord with me, I thought, 'I want to get married'".

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Getting married had never been something she needed to do but now it would "mean the world" to her.

"I feel that...we know really now there isn't going to be a miracle cure. I feel that I'd have some beautiful memories to carry forward and he'll have a permanent place in my heart."

She said she was looking forward to acknowledging their love for each other in front of their friends and family "and it's forever. 

"We both believe that your last breath isn't the end of you, we'll be reunited again."

Getting married had been a priority for Murcott too.

"He thought I would have liked to have got married because I hadn't been married before. That was really nice," Tolliday said.

In March, she said a surgeon gave Murcott two months to live. He has outlived that and Tolliday is hoping the "tough bugger" will keep defying the odds. "That the joy of married life is going to spur him on for a few more months or even into next year."

When Nelson Cancer Society centre manager Michelle Hunt learnt of the pair's wish to get married on August 5, she put a post on her personal Facebook page and onto The Tribe women's networking group page.

Hunt asked if anyone could help with a few wedding day necessities including a venue, a photographer and possibly a celebrant. 

She was overwhelmed by the response.

"We were just asking for the basics and we got the whole shebang."

Within four hours of the post going onto social media, the entire wedding was almost catered for including cake, rings, flowers, transport, "everything a bride could want", Hunt said. 

All that's left to organise she said was a suit for the groom. 

Hunt wasn't the only one overcome by the community spirit.

Tolliday said it was wonderful. 

"I've not known anything like this before. Coming from the big smoke in Sydney, the support [here] is overwhelming. The people in Nelson are "just fantastic".

Murcott, a tall rugged prop, played six games for the Junior All Blacks, from the ages of 21 to 23.

He played 33 games for Southland, with the province's win over the 1979 France team one of the standouts. 

A knee injury ended his career. 

He turned to heroin and was convicted for heroin manufacture and use.

After emigrating to Australia more than 10 years ago, it was on a trip back to New Zealand to visit his elderly mother last year that he was detained and later deported because of his convictions.

 

 - Stuff

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