Colin Meads

Sir Colin Meads
Meads at a fundraiser, August 2015
Full name Colin Earl Meads
Date of birth (1936-06-03) 3 June 1936
Place of birth Cambridge, New Zealand
Height 1.92 m (6 ft 3 12 in)
Weight 102 kg (225 lb)
School Te Kuiti High School
Notable relative(s) Stan Meads (brother)
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Flanker, Number 8, Lock
New Zealand No. 583
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1955–73 King Country 139
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1957–71 New Zealand 55 (21)

Sir Colin Earl Meads KNZM MBE (born 3 June 1936) is a former New Zealand rugby union player. He played 55 test matches (133 total games), most frequently in the lock forward position, for New Zealand's national team, the All Blacks, from 1957 until 1971.

Meads is widely considered one of the greatest players in history. Nicknamed 'Pinetree', he is an icon within New Zealand rugby, and was named the country's Player of the Century at the NZRFU Awards in 1999.

Early life and family

Colin Earl Meads was born to Vere Meads and Ida Meads (née Gray) on 3 June 1936, in the village of Cambridge in the Waikato region.[1] His father Vere was a descendant of early settlers Joseph Meads and Ann Meads (née Coates), who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1842. Vere’s grandfather Zachariah Meads was among the first British children to be born in Te Aro, Wellington, in 1843, and his grandmother Elizabeth Meads (née Lazare) was the daughter of an Irish minister who had educated freed slaves on the island of Mauritius before emigrating to Wanganui.[2]

Vere and his wife raised their five children on a sheep farm near Te Kuiti. Meads credits the farming lifestyle for his strong physique and high level of fitness.[3] Meads' brother Stanley Meads was also a noted rugby player, playing 30 matches as an All Black. In 11 matches Stanley and Colin locked the All Black scrum.

Verna and Meads have 5 children Karen Stockman, Kelvin Meads, Rhonda Wilcox who played for the NZ Silver Ferns, Glynn 'Pinetree' Meads also played and managed rugby for King Country and youngest daughter Shelley Mitchelle who played for the NZ women's basketball team. Colin and Verna raised their family in a Te Kuiti farm house, which they have recently sold, although they still live in Te Kuiti.

Rugby career

Meads played his club rugby for Waitete R.F.C[4] and played his first game for King Country team in 1955, at the age of 19. Scoring a try, and even a drop-goal (an unusual feat for a lock), Meads impressed in his debut match.

In 1955 Meads was selected for the New Zealand under 21 side which toured Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He "played all eight matches, scored three tries and was recognised by the Rugby Almanack as one of the 1955 season's most promising players."[5] In 1956 Meads played in national trials and for the North Island, and in 1957 was selected for the tour of Australia. He played ten matches and made his test debut, playing both of the internationals against the Wallabies, scoring a try in the second. Although normally a lock, he played at flanker and number 8, and even wing[1] (from where he scored a try), as the All Black team was strong on locks.

Meads in 1956.

From 1957 until 1971 Meads was effectively an automatic All Black selection. The International Rugby Hall of Fame considers him to have been 'the most famous forward in world rugby throughout the 1960s'.[6] His strength and high threshold for pain became legendary — best illustrated when in a game against Eastern Transvaal in South Africa, in which he emerged from a particularly vicious ruck with his arm dangling horribly, with an obvious fracture, yet completed the match. When the doctor cut away his shirt and confirmed the break, Meads muttered, "At least we won the bloody game."[7]

Meads had the reputation of being "an enforcer" and was involved in some controversial incidents. In 1967, he was sent off by Irish referee Kevin D. Kelleher for dangerous play against Scotland at Murrayfield, and became only the second All Black suspended in a test match.[8] The British Daily Telegraph newspaper said of the incident that 'For one with Meads' worldwide reputation for robust play, this was rather like sending a burglar to prison for a parking offence.'[6] In Australia he is notorious for having ended the career of Ken Catchpole by wrenching Catchpole's leg while he was pinned down, causing him serious injury.[9]

He captained the All Blacks a number of times - though never a regular captain, he holds the record of longest period of captaincy (not consecutive games), from the first date (1960) he was appointed captain to the last match he captained (1971).

After retirement

After retiring as a player in 1973, Meads became chairman of the King Country union, and spent time selecting and coaching the now-defunct North Island rugby team. In 1986 he was elected to the national selection panel, but was fired later in the year for acting as coach to the unauthorised New Zealand Cavaliers tour of apartheid South Africa, where the All Blacks were no longer allowed to tour. In 1992 he was elected to the New Zealand Rugby Union council. In 1994 and 1995 he was All Blacks manager. He left the council in 1996.

Although retired from rugby for many years, Meads is still a familiar face to many New Zealanders. He is a frequent public speaker at events, and still appears in a number of television spots, endorsing Honda ATVs, Bob Charles' Deer Velvet, lifejacket safety awareness, Provincial Finance[10] and Mastercard. Colin Meads has featured on Mainland Cheese television adverts throughout the later half of 2009 and early 2011.

In August 2016 it was announced that Meads had been disgnosed with pancreatic cancer following several months of illness.[11]

Honours and tributes

Meads is regarded by many as New Zealand's greatest ever rugby player, and was named Player of the Century at the NZRFU Awards dinner in 1999. He is a member of both the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

In the 1971 New Year Honours, Meads was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby.[12] He was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2001 New Year Honours. In the Special Honours 2009, following the restoration of titular honours by the New Zealand government, Meads accepted redesignation as a Knight Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit.[13][14]

One of the other trophies contested in New Zealand's domestic competition, the Heartland Championship, is named the Meads Cup in his honour. The All Blacks website states, "As a sporting legend Meads is New Zealand's equivalent of Australia's Sir Donald Bradman or the United States of America's Babe Ruth."[15]


  1. Colin Meads - All Black: Alex Veysey. 1974
  2. Meads, Pauline; Fletcher, Diane (1983). "Colin Earl Meads". Meads Family Tree 1803-1983.
  3. Gallagher, Brendon (2 June 2005). "Rugged life moulded Meads into greatest All Black". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008.
  4. "Meads not yet ready to lay down for McCaw". The Roar. 25 October 2012.
  5. "Colin Meads #583". All Blacks A to Z.
  6. 1 2 "Colin Meads". International Rugby Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013.
  7. "Today's All Blacks pale in comparison to the 'tree", 4 November 2002, The Guardian
  8. Bradley, Grant (3 August 2011). "Moments of Infamy: Meads sent off". New Zealand Herald.
  9. Parliament of New South Wales Debates: Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Amendment Bill, 7 June 2006.
  10. Taylor, Cliff (6 July 2008). "Star power behind finance companies". New Zealand Herald.
  11. "Sir Colin Meads diagnosed with pancreatic cancer". NZ Herald. 11 August 2013.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45264. p. 41. 31 December 1970. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  13. Special Honours List (12 August 2009) 118 New Zealand Gazette 2691
  14. "Colin 'Pinetree' Meads to take knighthood". NZPA. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  15. Colin Meads at

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Brian Lochore
All Blacks Captain
Succeeded by
Ian Kirkpatrick
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