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Beers and banter – RJ and Pinetree

Posted at 7:22am Monday 28 Aug, 2017

“Jeeez … what would we do after a game in those days if we didn’t have a beer?”

It’s a poser from an ex-All Black. “I mean, what would we do?”

And so, on the strength of the fact there was nothing else to do, the tearaway Bay of Plenty flanker RJ Conway – Dick or Red as the rugby public knew him – sat down on many, many occasions and had a beer and traded banter with the ‘Pinetree’ … the legendary Colin Meads who lost his biggest test match with pancreatic cancer this month.

“He always liked a beer,” says Conway from his home in Whakatane, himself a 10-test All Black and 72 caps for Bay of Plenty. “Yes he liked a beer, don’t you worry about that.” And he enjoyed the banter.

Colin Meads, player of the 20th century, knighted for services to rugby and the community, selfless giver of his time, only the second ever All Black to be sent off, a man who played on in a test after breaking his arm.

Stuff of true legends. The Pinetree was 6ft 4in and 16 stone at his peak.

“And a good fella,” says Conway. “Got on with everyone.”

But internationally, on the field, Meads was notorious as a ferocious enforcer.   

“Arguably the best of our fiercest rivals,” said South African Rugby president, Mark Alexander. An unnamed Welsh player described Meads as surly and mean and contact with him had the same impact as a 10-megaton bomb.

Conway plays down the reputation of the man who lived his later years in Papamoa and played bowls at Mount Maunganui.

Was he feared on the paddock? “Wouldn’t say so,” says Conway. “He was naturally a hard man because of his farming life. But he wasn’t any harder than many other guys.”

And Conway says when Bay of Plenty turned out against the Meads brothers from King Country, they could compete. “They might have had Stan and Colin and we had Arthur Jennings and Manu Maniapoto – and we would come out pretty good.”

“No Pinetree never worried us, even when we were running out onto the field, we never thought about him. You had to have faith in your own guys.”

Rugby pundits suggest the running and passing athlete that was Meads in his prime was way ahead of his time; his skills easily transportable into the modern game. “Pinetree was a pretty tricky bugger. He was a great player. But modern players are pretty good too, don’t worry about that. Hard to compare,” says Conway.

Sir Colin Earl Meads was a character. “Colin, just Colin, don’t worry about that other rubbish,” he once said. And on plans to immortalise him with a statue in his hometown of Te Kuiti, he was equally dismissive. “A ridiculous idea” but one he warmed to. Humble, gracious but stoic.

Now that character is gone.

Thousands are expected to turn out in the King Country town on Monday to farewell a great rugby player and a great man – Te Kuiti’s Pinetree even though all New Zealand laid claim to him.


COMMENTS

RIP

Posted on 28-08-2017 14:02 | By overit

Its so sad-another Kiwi icon has passed. Another great from my parents generation, I hate to say it but my generation has led the decline in morality etc.

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