Sir Graham remembers Sir Brian Lochore: 'NZ lost a huge Kauri tree'

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Sunday, 4 August 2019, 9:14AM
Sir Brian Lochore attends the funeral of Sir John Graham 7 August 2017. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry has paid tribute to his friend and colleague Sir Brian Lochore, who died on Saturday after a battle with bowel cancer.

Lochore was one of the greatest players to wear the All Blacks jersey, playing 25 tests (68 matches) for New Zealand at No 8 and coaching the side to the 1987 Rugby World Cup title.

Henry was an All Blacks selector alongside Lochore and mourned the loss of 'New Zealand's huge Kauri tree'.

"Obviously he was one of the greats," Henry tod Jim Kayes on Radio Sport. "Not only a great player but a great man, so it's very sad. He was a fabulous role model for everybody because he epitomised what we were trying to achieve; humble guys all striving to get better. He coined the phrase 'better people make better All Blacks', and he lived that.

"He was just one of those great All Blacks captains who had presence, could play well. Colin Meads played with him and I remember him saying "you just wanted to play for BJ."

"He had the ability to galvanise people and play for a cause, because they didn't want to let him down. Obviously he had a lot of knowledge about the game, he played at the highest level he'd managed and coached for a long time, so he had all the knowledge. But sometimes knowledge isn't enough, you've got to have respect and he had huge respect.

"For us, we were trying to produce a group of guys who were self-responsible, and would take leadership and ownership of the All Blacks and he was the man who had did it 15 years ago. He was just a great example to these young guys.

"We've lost a huge Kauri tree in New Zealand."

Sir Brian Lochore handed out the medal after the Lochore Cup Final.

Sir Brian Lochore handed out the medal after the Lochore Cup Final.

Lochore's wife, Lady Pam and the couple's three children said they were mourning, but relieved his suffering had ended. They wanted to express their gratitude for the care and support the family has received since Lochore's diagnosis.

Members of New Zealand's sporting community have paid tribute tonight.

Hamish McKay wrote on Facebook: "Another legend has left us. Sir Brian Lochore R.I.P. A gentleman who had time for everyone. Great leader, player, coach. #rugby #legendtweeted."

In 1999 he became the second All Black to be knighted, bestowed with the Queen's birthday honour a year after Wilson Whineray. The same year he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, while in 2006 the Lochore Cup was named after him, presented to the second-tier winner of New Zealand's Heartland Championship competition.

Born in Masterton on September 3, 1940, Lochore was synonymous with the Wairarapa. He made his debut for Wairarapa in 1959 and played all his provincial rugby for the small union.

That year he was included in a combined Wairarapa-Bush team (the two unions did not formally merge until 1971) to face a Lions team that included the likes of Tony O'Reilly and Peter Jackson.

The Wairarapa Times-Age lauded his performance, describing him as "outstanding, whether tackling, pursuing the loose ball or lending support in tight play".

His All Blacks test debut came at No 8 in January 1964 against England in London. Lochore was credited with bringing a new dynamic to the role of No 8 - with his corner-flagging, aerial work and unstinting physical onslaught.

His leadership qualities were quickly identified. He was named captain of the All Blacks in 1966 and held the role until his retirement in 1970. Lochore led the 1967 All Blacks to an unbeaten tour of Britain, France and Canada with test wins over England, Wales, France and Scotland.

That team, containing legendary names like colin Meads, Kel Tremain, Waka Nathan, Ken Gray and Fergie McCormick, is regarded as one of the great sides in All Black history and would have surely become the first All Black side to win the coveted Grand Slam were it not for an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that prevented them travelling to Ireland.

At age 30 he famously returned for one test in 1971 against the British Lions to help out an injury-struck side. As legend has it, he packed a bag and jumped into his Land rover to catch the 2pm Masterton-Wellington train, having time only to write the following note to wife Pam: "Gone to Wellington, playing test tomorrow. Will ring you later."

The match went badly, but Lochore's economy with words became famous in the aftermath.

He remained a towering figure in rugby after his playing days giving more than 50 years of service to New Zealand Rugby.


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