Sir Colin Meads statue unveiled in rugby legend's hometown
A statue of Sir Colin Meads was unveiled by Pinetree himself in his hometown of Te Kuiti on Monday.
The All Black legend, along with his brother Stan, pulled the cover off in front of the biggest crowd the King Country town has seen since the running of the sheep in April.
Sir Colin described the sculpture as "just marvellous".
"It's amazing how much detail has gone into it. Even my boot laces are laced how I used to lace them up," Sir Colin said.
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The 2.7-metre bronze sculpture weighs close to a tonne and took Auckland artist Natalie Stamilla about two months to create.
In addition to the statue, an exhibition honouring Sir Colin and Stan's rugby careers was also opened.
Stan said the day had been a special celebration for the Meads family.
"I had heard a bit about the statue, but until you see it ... it is magnificent," Stan said.
Stan said his brother had really looked forward to the day.
"When he saw it, he said, oh man, that's something."
"We went and sat back down and I said, 'That is tremendous.' And he said, 'Yes, I've got to admit it is.' And for him that's something.
"He felt pretty proud."
Stan said 10 days ago, the family thought there was no way Sir Colin, who has pancreatic cancer, would make it to the unveiling.
But on Sunday, the family were given a preview of the exhibition and Sir Colin was feeling good.
"I said to him, 'What are you wearing tomorrow?' He said, 'Well, I'd better get out of my pyjamas and put a suit on.' That's when I knew he was coming and there was no way he was going to miss it.
"It's been a struggle, but he has handled it damn well."
British and Irish Lions manager John Spencer, who played against Meads in 1971, said he'd had this date marked in his diary before the tour schedule was even announced.
"I said, 'I don't care what else is on, I am going to that – in respect of and my friendship with the greatest warrior of rugby.' " Spencer said.
Spencer played against Sir Colin during the British and Irish Lions 1971 New Zealand tour.
"Colin was an awesome character on and off the field. He was incredibly strong and he was a leader of men.
"He had such a reputation as an awesome player and the great thing about rugby back then is you just made the most incredible friendships with the people you played against.
"Today has been a wonderful tribute to the greatest man."
Among the throng of fans gathered at Monday's celebration was Craig Aikman, dressed in a kilt and sporran.
Aikman and his group of six Scotsman had made the trip down from Hamilton.
The group have travelled from Glasgow and are following the British and Irish Lions tour.
"We are all well aware of the legend he is," Aikman said. "He had finished playing by the time most of us were even born, but he is one of the greats.
"We did not want to miss this."
The project was driven by the town's Legendary Te Kuiti committee and has been funded by sponsors, donations and grants.