The tributes flooded in as the Taranaki and New Zealand rugby community mourned the loss of one of its finest players yesterday.
Legend, champion, inspirational and magnificent were among the words used to describe Ross Brown, a star of the 1950s and 60s, who died about 1.30am at Thornleigh Park rest home in New Plymouth. He was 79.
Brown played first-five eighth, second-five eighth and centre for Taranaki and All Blacks teams and was widely regarded as one of the best backs to come out of the region.
Highlights of his career included an historic All Blacks series win over South Africa in 1956 and two of Taranaki's greatest Ranfurly Shield eras.
Brown was born in New Plymouth in 1934 with an excellent rugby pedigree. His father, Handley Brown, was a wing in the 1924-25 Invincibles. He attended Auckland's prestigious King's College, playing for the 1st XV in 1951 and 1952.
He played the first of his 144 games for Taranaki as a teenager in 1953 and was to become a central figure in Ranfurly Shield eras from 1957-59 and 1963-65, captaining the side in the second tenure.
Initially known as an attacking runner, he later became thought of as a tactical thinker and kicker and drop-goal exponent. In the 1964 season he dropped 10 goals, including three in one game.
Between 1955 and and 1962, Brown was a regular All Black selection.
He played all four test matches in the 1956 series win against the Springboks. The series win was the All Blacks' first over the Springboks.
Taranaki Rugby Football Union chairman Lindsay Thomson said Brown had been an integral part of the fabric of Taranaki rugby and one of the true greats of the game.
Brown always maintained a strong interest in Taranaki rugby and the New Plymouth Old Boys club where he was renowned for his "white white white" chant.
"A magnificent Taranaki rugby player and an All Black of his generation," Thomson said
"Everything you've read about the guy tells you he was a true champion."
Former team-mate and captain Peter Burke said Brown was an extremely gifted player and a key man through two Shield eras.
"The boys, they thought the world of him. They knew if he got hold of the ball, he would do something with it and it was our advantage," Burke said.
"When the pressure was on he would make sure he got the ball in front of the forwards so we could get in there and take it on."
Taranaki Rugby chief executive Mike Collins said Brown was a true icon and an inspiration to generations of players.
"Ross was a hero of mine and many of my peers growing up as a young player in Taranaki.
"I am pleased we are able to continue to honour his great legacy through the Ross Brown Tournament each year." "
Brown's wife, Vivienne, said his family would remember him as a caring, kind man, who used to joke with and tease his children, sometimes calling them the names of their pets by "mistake".
The couple married in Otorohanga in 1965 and lived in New Plymouth all their married life. He worked as a timber merchant.
His health had been failing in recent years and he moved into a rest home two years ago. His condition deteriorated further in the past couple of weeks.
Brown is survived by his wife, a son and four daughters, and 16 grandchildren.
His funeral will be held at St Mary's Cathedral on Friday.
Ross Handley Brown
Born New Plymouth, September 8, 1934
25 All Black caps (incl 16 tests) from 1955-1962
12 All Blacks points (3 tries, 1 dropped goal)
144 Taranaki caps from 1953 to 1968
209 Taranaki points (incl 38 tries)
- Taranaki Daily News
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