• The red jackets of the Hawke's Bay Eagles Society will miss Sir Brian Lochore's tasty tidbits next month on the All Blacks' prospects at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
• The wider Halberg family will fondly remember Sir Brian Lochore for his generosity of time to the Eagles Society fundraising golf days, says trust CEO Shelley McMeeken.
Sir Brian Lochore was half way into sinking his teeth into a chunky slice of ham off the bone when I had asked him if he could throw me a few crumbs post-dinner that September night on the All Blacks versus Springboks test in the Rugby Championship in Newlands, Cape Town, the following month in 2017.
Lochore immediately put his knife and fork down, wiped his mouth and stood up.
"Let's do it now," he had said with a beaming smile as I implored him to finish his meal first after the annual Hawke's Bay Eagles Society fundraising tourney for the Halberg Sport Disability Trust at the Napier Golf Club. "It's better to get it out of the way now."
Prophetically the then 77-year-old All Black legend went on to forecast South Africa — going through tumultuous times for depth of talent and experience — were going to strike back despite the 57-0 flogging at the hands of the rampant Men in Black at North Harbour on September 16.
I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to play a round of golf that day alongside Lochore but I don't profess to know the former All Blacks captain/coach/selector/manager from Masterton.
My knowledge of his rugby prowess was limited to what I had read and watched from snippets of mostly black-and-white TV footage over the years.
However, what struck me most was his down-to-earth approach to life. No Sir Brian stuff with him.
"Call me BJ or Brian, thanks Anendra," he had said to me, as I smiled sheepishly before he thundered a driver off the No 1 tee-off mound, adroitly using all of his giant frame to find the centre of the fairway.
No doubt, I had easily warmed up to Lochore who was my "losers buy a pint" betting partner in the group of four playing a matchplay round within a team competition. At the end of the 18 holes it was a privilege to share a table of laughter with someone who didn't mince words when asked for his opinion and yet carried himself in the mould of a savvy diplomat.
In many respects, he reminded me of the late Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads, another ABs legend and a King Country farmer who I had interviewed a couple of times at the Tararua Sports Awards in Pahiatua in the mid-2000s.
While golf wasn't Lochore's first choice, the significance of the sport wasn't lost on him despite some people who castigate it as chasing a white ball which ruins a good day's walk.
"I often say to people that if I hadn't played golf I'd be dead right now because it makes you actually walk 10ks," he had said, expressing doubts on whether he was going to make it the following year. "I don't know how long I'll be able to go on but I'm really enjoying it."
Lochore had returned. Although he wasn't in my group this time last year, he gave me another robust interview before hopping into a vehicle with a couple of Wairarapa mates, with their golf trundlers parked on the back of a trailer, to hit the highway back the same night.
No doubt he would have done his utmost to be back for the 40th golf tourney at the Waiohiki course on Thursday, September 12, this year but lost his battle with cancer last Sunday after having beaten it twice before in 2017.
"What sport can you spend four hours at a place where you've never met people before," Lochore had told me before sharing a few stories on Fiji rugby players after learning I was born in the Pacific Island nation. "You get to know people really well and that's what I love about the sport and there's a new challenge every day."
He had considered himself lucky to be an honorary patron of the Bay and Wellington Eagle societies, having missed the odd year at tourneys but playing his role for the best part of the past 16 years.
A grinning Lochore had revealed he had acquired a "grand title" of life trustee of the Halberg trust after having served as a trustee for several years but had relished his involvement for "a fantastic cause".
"You only realise how big the Halberg trust has been for a long time when you come to functions like this where it makes you realise what they do when disabled people turn up to talk," he had said, after Bay para swimmer Kate McKelvie had given a presentation at the Napier club.
"Halberg trust have done a magnificent job for disabled youth in New Zealand."
Lochore also had saluted the Bay Eagle Society and its generous helpers and sponsors who have helped raise close to $400,000 for disabled youngsters to date.
"They care about what they are doing so that's why they are the Eagles and they have done a great job for the clubs here and are good people."
The 46-time All Blacks skipper had thoroughly enjoyed working on the farms of his son, David Lochore, of Porangahau, and son in-law Mark Mossman.
He found time to watch his two grandsons play for Napier Boys' High School rugby teams and had no qualms opening the gates to his Wairarapa farming property for schoolchildren to turn his grassy paddocks into a sea of mud during an orienteering meet.
"The grass will grow back. And just keep on doing sport, you're a long time old," Lochore had said before presenting trophies.
Bay Eagles Society secretary/treasurer Jamie MacLeod said he, past-president Peter Liddle, of Maraekakaho, who had made Lochore an honorary member during his reign in 2004, life member Kevin Pike and the latest society inductee, Robin Dailey, of Dannevirke, were attending his funeral at the Masterton Memorial Park from 1pm today. Liddle says besides his rugby and tennis he loved golf and got behind the Eketahuna Golf Club, including the Eagle societies.
"He was always happy to jump on the floor and give us the rundown on the prospects of the All Blacks but he was so low key and personable.
"He was almost local being from Wairarapa Bush where people almost considered him as a Hawke's Bay boy," he says.
Liddle's brother-in-law, Gerald Clarke, had coached Otago so he got to know Lochore better.
"Whenever we caught up with him - and BJ just came up so often - it was rugby talk the whole time with another fellow [Ian] Spooky Smith who worked for my brother-in-law," says Liddle of the late All Black left winger Smith.
Lochore, he reveals, didn't hesitate to support Bay Eagle Society.
"He's also put money into all sorts of projects to plant natives trees and protect the environment."
Incumbent president Allen Connor, of Havelock North, also was taking a carload of Bay society members.
Halberg Trust CEO Shelley McMeeken says Lochore's sporting and leadership are universally acknowledged in the All Blacks he had coached to winning the Supreme Halberg Award in 1987.
"However, he is also fondly remembered by the wider Halberg family for his generosity of time to the Eagles fundraising golf days of which Halberg is the recipient.
"We are exceptionally grateful for his contributions. In recognition of this, many of the Eagles golfers [wearing their distinctive red jackets] will be attending Sir Brian's funeral," says McMeeken.
With the Rugby World Cup kicking off in Japan from next month the red jackets would have lapped up Lochore's humorous servings at the Napier club, if his reference to England coach Eddie Jones as "that little Australian upstart" was anything to go by.
"We're going to miss his comments on the current crop of All Blacks because he always had something interesting to say about that," MacLeod said.