Final whistle is blown for the great Pinetree of Nehenehenui

By Mānia Clarke

The King Country town of Te Kūiti celebrated the late Sir Colin Meads' life as thousands paid tribute to the All Black legend at his funeral. While the nation remembers him as a rugby icon, friends say he will be missed for his community contributions.

It was the final whistle for the great Pinetree of Nehenehenui.

Tributes flowed for Sir Colin Meads from his whānau, rugby greats and his grandchildren.

"You would sit with us kids, five on each knee and call us monkey Joes until we squealed with glee. We'll never forget your cooked brekkies every day. You forced us to eat our potatoes before we could play," said one grandchild.

"We never quite understood your fame, after all we never actually watched you play a game. But now before us you lie. We are here with the nation to say goodbye. Thanks to your legendary home TK we have a statue to remember you every day," shared another grandchild.

Despite the weather, Te Kūiti was flooded with mourners. Fans and dignitaries lined the streets to honour a New Zealand legend. 

Local Te Maimoa Tewhau said he was there here to say goodbye to our friend.

"He meant a lot to all these people, Māori and Pākehā."

"Honour this great man here, you know like everybody else," said another local Te Rā Koroheke.

Local kaumātua Koro Wetere couldn't be at the service of his childhood neighbour, but memories of his good school friend were close in his thoughts.

"We see how our people lament for him. Right down to our children seen lining the streets. They call him Pāpā he was a good role model for them," said Wetere.

"Well you know you need champions like that who kind of remember the backbone of rugby in New Zealand. He treated everybody with respect, whether they were All Blacks or playing club rugby and I think that's why everybody is here," said NZ Rugby Board member Dr Farah Palmer.

Wetere is hopeful that the rugby legacy left by late Sir Meads will continue for future generations.

"What's important is that we have our 'daughter' Farah Palmer on the board. I said she must start to encourage the next generation."

Sir Colin Meads was buried privately surrounded by whānau and close friends at Te Kūiti Cemetery.