The sending home of All Black Keith Murdoch from the 1972-73 UK tour is ''the greatest single regret'' of legend Ian Kirkpatrick's career.
In the foreword to the book Murdoch: The All Black Who Never Returned by Ron Palenski released today, Kirkpatrick says he was horrified when Murdoch was sent home after an incident with a security guard at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff.
''Forty-five years on, my views have not changed.
''As captain of that side, I have asked myself the same questions many times over: could I have done more to ensure Keith Murdoch wasn't banished from the tour; should I have done more?
''At a management meeting the day after the incident — and, of course, our test win against Wales — I made it absolutely clear that I wanted Keith to stay on the tour. Everyone present agreed and he was named to start in the next match.
''So, it came as a real shock when, the following day, manager Ernie Todd announced that Keith was being sent home. I knew Ernie had been under pressure to dismiss Keith from the tour; what I didn't know until years later was just how much pressure the Four Home Unions had exerted on our manager.
''In reality, it took a few days before the enormity of the situation really sunk in. But one thing's for sure, the more I thought about it as the tour unfolded, the more I believed we should have put our foot down and issued an ultimatum: If Keith goes home, we all go home. It's a thought that has never left me . . .
''As for the man himself, he was brilliant within the team environment, always willing to help out and very popular among his fellow tourists. I never had any issues with him on or off the field. Granted, he was media shy, but that's hardly a crime. There have been plenty of players in both the amateur and professional eras who have avoided the media spotlight.
''Keith was a very good footballer — immensely strong and a world-class prop. So, it is sad that his entire All Blacks career has been defined by that one incident after the test against Wales.
''I have known Ron Palenski for many years. Not only has he been a great servant of the game through his many years as a leading sports writer and historian, but he is also a good rugby man who cares deeply about the game. That's part of the reason I agreed to write this foreword. I knew the book would be well intentioned and I knew that Keith would be treated fairly.
''Months before Keith's death when I was talking to Ron about this book I mentioned that it would be appropriate to see some sort of apology issued to Keith, and for him to be able to accept his All Blacks cap. Nothing would have given me greater pleasure. Even so, I did fear that a gesture such as that might have come too late for Keith; that he had well and truly moved on from those dark days.
''The game will never forget him. He was a good man. Rest in peace, Keith.''
Ian Kirkpatrick Gisborne, 2018
Extracted from Murdoch: The All Black Who Never Returned by Ron Palenski ($39.99 RRP), Upstart Press (http://upstartpress.co.nz/murdoch-the-all-black-who-never-returned/)