Had former Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby prop Graham Wiig been a bit more aggressive he could have been an All Black.

"Graham had all the physical attributes. He was one of those old-style props ... big and strong and a good team man," Wiig's former Magpies teammate and former All Black Blair Furlong recalled.

Former New Zealand sailing representative Wiig died last weekend in Tauranga after a battle with oesophagus cancer. He was cremated on Tuesday, his 72nd birthday.
Wiig played 83 first class games for the Magpies from 1968 to 1977. He played in the Bay's 15-14 win against the 1972 Wallabies and 26-5 loss to the 1971 British and Irish Lions.

Another of his former Magpies teammate, Paul Carney, agreed with Furlong.


"Graham stood up to the best in the country. If he had a bit more mongrel he would have been an All Black."

Carney also played alongside Wiig for the old Napier High School Old Boys club. He pointed out there were numerous occasions when the forward pack consisted of eight players, including Wiig, who has played for the Magpies and their side won the Maddison Trophy on several occasions.

"Graham was a great team man with a good nature ... one of those blokes who would be among the first to working bees," Carney recalled.

During the Magpies' 24-8 Ranfurly Shield win against Taranaki in 1969 Wiig acquitted himself admirably against All Black Brian Muller.

A week later he had to front up against another All Black in Alister Hopkinson, at the apex of his career, in the 18-11 loss which ended the Magpies 1960s shield era.

"Alister Hopkinson was a hard nut. Not necessarily a good technical prop and in most cases tended to get his way with the fists, not my style, but we had a good match and ended up pretty much square on the day," Wiig recalled in 2011.

A three-time New Zealand trialist, Wiig, was named as one of the country's five most promising players early in his first class career. He also coached the Napier High School Old Boys team with Furlong one season.

"Mac [Ian MacRae) and I both wanted to coach at the same time. He coached at our Marist club so I decided to go and help Graham. I don't know if we won too many games but we won the one which counted ... against Marist," Furlong quipped.


The Napier Sailing Club's commodore from 1989-91, Wiig, like his brothers Bryan and Gary, was a New Zealand sailing representative. He was a member of third, fourth and fifth placed crews at world championship level in the Flying Fifteen class in the boat Fflash-Eh which he built at his Taradale home.

Wiig was also a national title winner in the same class in 1984 with Dave Zorn. Long-time clubmate and fellow New Zealand representative Andrew Morrison, who now lives in the Bay of Plenty, remembers Wiig being introduced to sailing by his father Lyall, who also served as a commodore at the Napier club.

The pair built a P class yacht together and other father-and-son combos from the club joined in the process.

"Later on Graham would get into the boat building business and he always built beautiful boats. He established a new class of Flying Fifteens," Morrison recalled.

"He was a very enthusiastic commodore and a magnificent sportsman. A lot of people don't realise he was a brilliant gymnast as a schoolboy and a skilled golfer before rugby became his priority," Morrison added.

The club's immediate past commodore Paul Redman, remembers Wiig's involvement in a new marina project, the expansion of a youth sailing programme and the building of new facilities for youth sailors.

"Graham was an all round good bloke and an excellent boat builder," Redman said.

Wiig's brother Bryan said he and his brothers were thrilled to continue the family's sailing tradition.

"I remember dad taking us out in an 18 footer which was crewed by six to 10 people. Graham used to pump the water till he got old enough to sail."

"He was a natural sportsman. During his days at Napier Intermediate School he was a swimming champion. Graham broke several javelin records at Napier Boys' High School and both he and I were in the Napier Boys' High School gymnastics team. He was also in the Napier Sailing Club's basketball team and we all remember the work he put in at Whites Gym up Milton Road to keep fit for sailing and rugby," Bryan added.

Wiig's youngest son Bevan lauded his father's ability to help those in need.

"Despite being busy with his work and sporting pursuits he always found time to help those who were dealing with personal strife. He had the time and effort for them and was a good listener."

Wiig is survived by his two sons, Hayden and Bevan, and two grandchildren, Madeleine and Hendrix.