New Zealand and world sport has lost a unique character with the passing of Eric Tindill.

Tindill died at the age of 99 in Wellington yesterday.

He is the only person to play tests for New Zealand in both cricket and rugby, and the only person to play tests in both sports, referee a rugby test and umpire a cricket test.

A halfback or first five-eighth for Wellington, Tindill played 16 matches for the All Blacks, including one test, a 0-13 loss to England at Twickenham in 1936.

That match was notable for the performance of the 'Russian prince' on the wing for the England side, Alexander Obolensky, who scored two dashing tries to help the home side to victory.

Tindill later turned to refereeing and controlled three tests, two between the All Blacks and the British Lions in 1950 and one involving New Zealand and Australia in 1955.

As well, he played five tests for the New Zealand cricket team as a wicket-keeper/batsman between 1937 and 1947. He later umpired in one test match in the 1958-59 season between New Zealand and England as well as serving a period as a New Zealand selector.

Tindill was New Zealand's only genuine double rugby-cricket cap.

Of this country's other double rugby-cricket internationals, George Dickinson and Curly Page played only in cricket tests, Charlie Oliver, Jeff Wilson and Brian McKechnie played only in rugby tests and Bill Carson never played a test in either sport.

In 1995 Tindill was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

At the time of his death Tindill was the oldest surviving All Black and test cricketer.

Born in Nelson on December 18, 1910, Tindill last year overtook Englishman Francis McKinnon, who lived to be 98 years and 324 days, as the world's oldest surviving test cricketer. The previous oldest surviving test rugby player was Scotland's Mac Henderson, who was 101 years and 309 days when he died last year.

- NZPA