Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks: Kel Tremain

"Jeez you'll have a lot to live up to young fella following that old coot but good luck to you. I'm sure you know your stuff, just be honest about it and players will be alright."

So said Kel Tremain when we were first introduced about the time Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it. The 'coot ' Tremain referred to was TP McLean, as he began to make his way into the administrative areas of New Zealand rugby.

That journey was cut short by Tremain's sudden death, blighting hopes he would make an NZRU impact as powerfully as he had on the field.

Originally Tremain wanted to be a lock until he was reluctantly switched to the blindside. A year later he was an All Black. It was a tough start against the Lions but a few threats from Colin Meads helped to quell his rival loosie.

The pair tried to sort out Springbok loosie Martin Pelser on the tour the next year but this time they came off second best. One was to jump in the lineouts and the other had to whack Pelser.

"Some theory that turned out to be," Tremain said. "He floored both of us and got the lineout ball. He was a remarkable footballer because he had only one eye."

Tremain played test rugby for a decade where his affection for the game and his All Black mates was paramount and where he learned the strength of mind he transferred into his business life in the Hawkes Bay.

He led the province to Ranfurly Shield successes they forged with their skill and supreme fitness. When his playing days finished and his family grew up, Tremain said he wanted to correct some of the problems in the game as an administrator.

That was curtailed but his connection is still strong with the annual award of the KR Tremain trophy to the player of the year.

Date of birth: 21 February 1938
Position: Blindside flanker
Test debut: 15 August 1959 v British & Irish Lions at Wellington
Final test: 10 August 1968 v France at Auckland
Matches: 86
Tests: 38
Province: Canterbury, Auckland, Hawkes Bay
Test tries: 9
Test points: 27

- NZ Herald

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