Te Kuiti’s most famous export did not want a big fuss made but he got one anyway.
A big crowd including a number of All Black greats and representatives from the touring British and Irish Lions were present when the 2.7m bronze statue of Sir Colin Meads was unveiled in the King Country town yesterday afternoon.
The main street, Rora Street, was closed to cater for the influx of locals, visitors, Meads family and media for the event.
While there was a chance the now-frail 81-year-old Sir Colin might not make it to the unveiling, he made it along and, in true Meads style, played down the occasion.
“I can’t really live up to all these great tributes everyone is making,” the 133-game All Black told the crowd, “because I’m not as fit as I used to be.
“Someone said to me that while it’s great you’ve got the ball in one hand (in the statue), you should have a pint in the other.
“When it was originally raised, I thought it was ridiculous, but now it’s come to fruition, I feel proud and honoured.”
Sir Colin said it was fantastic former All Blacks and mates Sir Brian Lochore, Bryan Williams and Tane Norton were in attendance. The ceremony was hosted by Keith Quinn.
Sir Colin, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, unveiled the statue with his brother Stan. There is also a special Meads Brothers Exhibition under way in Te Kuiti.
Earlier, Sir Brian said the statue was fitting for a man who was a legend, on and off the field.
“What a friend and what a foe he has been,” Sir Brian said.
“I played in every test with him but one, when he broke his arm in South Africa (in 1970), and he was an inspiration and incredible help to me when I became captain something I will remember for the rest of my life.” Manager of the touring British and Irish Lions, John Spencer, said it was a privilege to be in Te Kuiti alongside “perhaps the greatest warrior of rugby”.
The tribute to Sir Colin was driven by the town’s Legendary Te Kuiti committee and funded by sponsors, donations and grants. NZN