Tributes flow for Taranaki rugby legend

John McEldowney played 10 games for the All Blacks and 125 for Taranaki.
John McEldowney played 10 games for the All Blacks and 125 for Taranaki.

Only the best of rugby players are afforded legendary status within their province and in Taranaki John McEldowney is among the honoured few.

The former All Black, 64, collapsed and died while out walking with his wife in Moturoa on Sunday.

A prop, McEldowney played 10 matches for the All Blacks, two of them tests against the 1977 Lions.

He represented Taranaki 125 times.

A former team-mate, Taranaki Daily News columnist Ian Snook paid tribute to McEldowney yesterday.

"Everything about him paints the picture of a great player, a great personality and a great friend to those who knew him well," Snook said.

"Mac was an individual who would have thrived in today's professional game. Already strong and athletic, he possessed many other skills that took him to the top of the tree.

"Here was a technically clever and powerful scrummager, a strong ball carrier, mauler extraordinaire, lineout technician, and an in-depth thinker of the game."

McEldowney started his senior rugby career with Kaponga as an 18-year-old, soon went on to Taranaki Colts, then Taranaki, with the pinnacle being selected as an All Blacks test player against the British and Irish Lions in 1977 following the tour to Argentina in 1976.

McEldowney first packed down with two other All Black props Jazz Muller and Ash Gardiner in the amber and black jersey before cementing himself on the loosehead with brother Bryce on the tighthead.

In the mid-1970s he was part of possibly one of the best Taranaki packs of all time along with Bryce, centurions Ian Eliason, John Thwaites, Felix O'Carroll, Ross Fraser and Graham Mourie and All Black Alistair Scown.

In a strong era for Taranaki rugby he was certainly an important contributor and integral cog.

"Being a true front rower the stories abound," Snook said.

"He was most definitely a `back seat' boy (on the team bus) when those concepts were important, and held off many challenges from those trying to oust either himself or his fellow back seaters.

"Another time he arrived in Argentina with the All Blacks in 1976 after a relaxing month off, only to have fitness fanatic Kevin Eveleigh take him for a long run each morning to shed off the few extra pounds.

"It was no fun by all accounts."

Following his playing career Mac put his in-depth knowledge and people skills to good use, both coaching and on the committee at New Plymouth Old Boys.

Taranaki Rugby Football Union chairman and fellow centurion, Lindsay Thomson, said McEldowney was a Taranaki great. "His 14 years playing for Taranaki were during a time when Taranaki had a forward pack which was feared throughout the country, and John was an integral part of that."


All Blacks – 10 games, two tests.

All Black No 768

Taranaki – 125 games

Taranaki Daily News