All Blacks legend Waka Nathan dies

All Blacks legend Waka Nathan made his debut for Auckland at 18 and played 88 games in the Blue and White Hoops, scoring 51 points. Photo Auckland Rugby

All Blacks great Waka Nathan, of Howick, has died. He was 81.

Pakuranga United Rugby Club (PURC) paid tributes to Nathan,

“Pakuranga Rugby is saddened to learn of the passing of Waka Nathan,” the club said.

“Waka has been a great supporter and friend of Pakuranga United Rugby Club (PURC) over the last couple of decades.

“While Waka’s club roots were firmly in the Otahuhu red and black, Waka, through family connections and living in our community, has been a huge supporter of PURC and was a familiar and regular sight around Bell Park.

“Special thoughts and wishes go out to his whānau, especially his daughter and son-in-law Janine and Kyle and their family.”

On his relationship with PURC, PURC general manager John East commented, “Waka will always have a special place here at Pakuranga Rugby.

“There are many photos around our club of Waka with either a player draped over him or a supporter wanting a selfie! His approachability, his incredible mana and dignity made him accessible to all and everyone loved him.”

“We appreciate that the last year or two have been a struggle for him and his family, we know that he will be at peace.”

Waka made his debut for Auckland at 18 and played 88 games in the blue and white Hoops, scoring 51 points. He debuted for the All Blacks in 1962 on a tour of Australia where he played both tests against the Wallabies. He was a member of the All Blacks tour of Britain in 1963-64, despite having a broken jaw, he scored 11 tries in 15 matches.

A world-class flanker, Waka played 14 tests for the All Blacks with 14 wins in the black jersey.

After retiring from the game, Waka remained actively involved in several roles. The Auckland pre-season club competition has a trophy named in his honour, the Waka Nathan Cup. “Pakuranga has been privileged to win the Cup on two occasions.”

Waka Nathan debuted for the All Blacks in 1962 on a tour of Australia where he played both tests against the Wallabies. He was a member of the All Blacks tour of Britain in 1963-64, despite having a broken jaw, he scored 11 tries in 15 matches.

Meanwhile, Auckland Rugby also paid tribute to Nathan.

“It is with great sadness that Auckland Rugby acknowledges the passing of Waka Nathan.

“Waka was a man of incredible mana who devoted a large part of his life to Auckland Rugby.”

Waka was a former President of the Auckland Rugby Union, Patron of the Auckland Rugby Union and an Auckland Rugby Life Member. He was an Otahuhu College old boy and Life member of the Otahuhu Rugby Club.

He made his debut for Auckland at 18 and played 88 games in the Blue and White Hoops, scoring 51 points.

Waka is well remembered for scoring a last-minute try against Canterbury to set up his teammate, Mike Cormack to convert the try and retain the Ranfurly Shield in a game that finished 19-18 in 1960. Waka went on to debut for the New Zealand Maori in the same year appearing for the team until 1966.

Waka debuted for the All Blacks in 1962 on a tour of Australia where he played both tests against the Wallabies. He was a member of the All Blacks tour of Britain in 1963-64, despite having a broken jaw, he scored 11 tries in 15 matches.

The world-class flanker played 14 tests for the All Blacks with 14 wins in the black jersey.

The late Sir Colin Meads described Waka as “the most virile runner with the ball in hand”.

After retiring from playing, he went on to become a New Zealand Maori selector between 1971-77 and managed the New Zealand Maori on their tour of Wales in 1982.

Waka was given the honour from New Zealand Rugby to run onto the field and start the proceedings for the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

The Otahuhu Life Member was elected President of the Auckland Rugby Union in 2003 later moving to Patron of the Auckland Rugby Board.

Waka was honoured by Auckland Rugby for his commitment and devotion to the union as a player and administrator with the creation of the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup which Auckland Rugby’s premier club teams compete for.

“Waka will be missed greatly, and our condolences go out to the Nathan whanau at this time,” Auckland Rugby said.

“Waka’s legacy will forever be etched into the history of our union.”

Kua hinga te totara i Te Waonui a Tane – A totara has fallen in the great forest of Tane.