Former giant Waimate and South Canterbury fullback Moray Watson, known for his booming boot and ramrod fend, has died at the age of 79.
Endowed with bulging leg muscles - he was often seen with socks around his ankles - he was feared for his ability to kick goals from halfway and beyond. He was also dangerous with the ball in hand and was an innovative player.
Watson scored 413 points in his 72 matches for South Canterbury, from 1955 to his influential role in the 17-14 defeat of France in 1961. His points total remains second best of all time for South Canterbury behind Barry Fairbrother, who amassed 1048.
He also played at Fraser Park, Timaru, for combined South-Mid-Canterbury-North Otago teams against the 1956 Springboks and 1959 British Lions.
Placed at centre for impact against the Springboks, he was the star of the home backs, defending strongly and breaking tackles when more possession became available in a creditable 20-8 loss.
Such were his skills that many picked him to become an All Black on the 1960 tour of South Africa behind Don Clarke. However, the selectors opted for Otago's Tony Davis - a utility back who could play from first five out. Watson was part of a very good Waimate side through the 1950s that won the Skinner Cup in both 1958 and 1960, along with the likes of second five D J Salmon and lock Lofty Proudfoot.
A keen follower of Waimate rugby at the time, Irwin Elston, remembers Watson fondly.
"He should have been an All Black fullback but they went with a utility. The Auckland press rubbished Watson and were pushing for their man and called Moray ‘Farmer Giles'. It wasn't fair - he was a fantastic player."
Elston remembered Watson's prodigious boot. "In those days you could kick out on the full and Watson could be in his 25 and put it out in the opposition's."
"He played in an All Black trial but they put him at centre."
Watson was very dangerous coming into the backline and could give it plenty of impetus, Elston said.
He was also part of the South Canterbury team that lost their Ranfurly Shield challenge narrowly to Otago 6-3.
At Waimate High School, Watson was a national jumping champion and set a New Zealand record that stood for many years. Outside sport, he rose to become general manager of Pyne Gould Guinness - a Christchurch post - after being manager at Waimate.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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