Bob Scott was the sort of person who gave sport a good name.
Raised by a father who struggled financially throughout Scott's childhood, the barefoot kid grew into the best rugby fullback of his generation.
Unable to afford boots, he learned to kick the heavy leather balls of the time in bare feet, with his toes.
"I learned to sort of scrunch my big toe up," he'd explain. "If you get it right, it doesn't hurt."
One of the great treats for crowds at exhibition games in the late 1950s was to see Scott demonstrate this skill at halftime, kicking goals from halfway.
But his forte in his playing days was running with the ball at a time when an attacking fullback was considered an offence against nature.
His performances on his last All Black tour, in 1953-54, led Fleet Street critics to compare him to the great George Nepia, and fans cheered him off the field after the Barbarians game on that tour.
But Scott was a humble man all his life, even by the standards of his generation, who, like him, had served in World War II, and disliked any kind of ego display.
Although '53-54 was a triumph, he had struggled to kick goals in South Africa in 1949. He was so distraught after the third-test loss, blaming himself for missed scoring chances, that the rest of his team, in a touching attempt at blokey group therapy, gathered around him and sang For He's A Jolly Good Fellow.
The emotion of the moment was so great that 40 years later, when asked about the incident for a television show, Mud And Glory, tears rolled down his face.
Bob Scott died yesterday at his home in Whangamata at the age of 91.
He made his debut for the All Blacks against Australia in Dunedin in 1946 at the age of 25 and went on to wear the black jersey in 52 matches, including 17 tests.
He retired in 1954 after playing his last test against France in Paris.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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