The magic of Sir Colin Meads in three anecdotes
OPINION: I am part of that massive category of New Zealanders - people who met Sir Colin Meads and were blown away by the experience.
I met him on three occasions, through my work as a journalist, over a period of nine years.
Those three occasions showed that beyond all the rugby milestones that he was great, genuine, funny, helpful and patient person.
OCCASION 1: 2002
In 2002, Meads was touring New Zealand promoting his book, also called Meads, written by Brian Turner. I was asked by the editor to hang around one night to cover his speaking engagement at a pub in Thames.
Colin Meads with his book, Meads, during a visit to Thames in 2002. Photo: WARWICK RASMUSSEN/STUFF
I wasn't a sports journalist, just a sports fan, so was keen to head along.
I turned up on the cold, wet September night to the pub - late. The place was bursting at the seams to hear Meads talk. And there he was, standing on a lectern of sorts (it was a modified crate) and he had the audience in the palm of his hand.
In his left hand was a handle of tap beer, and a little further away, on the bar was his book, standing upright to show off to the punters.
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And there I was, almost crawling on the ground, trying to get an 'imposing' photo of the great Colin Meads in full story-telling mode, with his new book in the frame.
Just as I was about to take the shot, he plonked the handle of beer down in front of the book. Damn!
With one of the worst ideas in the world, I scurried along the ground, below the bar, reached my hand up and attempted to move the handle of beer out of the way.
In an instant, Meads swivelled to his left, squinted, looked down at me and barked: "That bastard's trying to steal my beer!" The place erupted with laughter, I backwards scurried. Meads kept looking at me, then gave me a quick wink. I was mortified (and I didn't get the photo I'd wanted).
Afterwards, I had to awkwardly introduce myself back at the office where he graciously gave me stick about the incident, and happily sat for an interview in my editor's office. He even posed for a photo with his book for me to get me off the hook with the boss.
OCCASION 2: 2009
Stan and Colin Meads at a New Zealand Rugby Union capping ceremony in 2009. Photo: MARK TAYLOR/STUFF
Seven years later I was working at the Waikato Times in Hamilton. I was on the Friday late shift and had been assigned to go to an All Blacks capping ceremony, with a photographer friend of mine.
We get to the venue at SkyCity casino and were greeted with dozens of All Blacks all mingling and catching up, and we had a tight deadline to meet for the Saturday morning paper.
It was a bit of a nightmare scenario. We had to break up conversations these old players were having and ask for photos and caption information.
Along came Colin Meads to the rescue. I tell him of our plight and calls over former All Black prop Mark 'Bull' Allen. He orders Bull to wrangle all the younger All Blacks and he'll take care of the older ones.
Within minutes, Meads was helping co-ordinate the players. He called out to his brother Stan to start with, then bellowed out name after name to help us out. What a legend. He asked if we'd got what we needed, shook hands, then wandered off to the ceremony, with a beer in hand.
Talk about saving the day.
OCCASION 3: 2011
Colin Meads shakes hands with reporter Daniel Richardson at Mangatainoka in 2011. Photo: WARWICK RASMUSSEN
Two years later and I was working at the Manawatu Standard in Palmerston North. I decided to pop over to the pre-season Super Rugby game at rural Mangatainoka, famous for being the home of Tui beer.
The game had finished and I'd caught up with sports reporter Daniel Richardson, who had been covering the game. It had been a long day, when we spotted Colin Meads sitting by himself, with a couple of cans of beer.
I told Daniel that he should grab a couple of quotes from Meads. Daniel was initially reluctant as he didn't want to interrupt, but eventually he popped over and introduced himself.
Seconds later he was sitting and chatting to Meads, adding some extra colour to his story. The talk ended with the obligatory handshake and we were on our way back to Palmerston North.
There must be thousands of these kinds of stories that elevate Sir Colin Meads from being a great rugby player to being a great person.
He was never under any obligation to help me do my job, but he went above and beyond each time. He didn't know me from a bar of soap, and you get the feeling that he treated everyone the same: with kindness, respect, and patience.
To me, he was the greatest.
- Warwick Rasmussen is a News Director at The Dominion Post in Wellington.