When I think of Double All Blacks my mind immediately goes to our two most recent proponents of this lost art, Brian McKechnie and Jeff Wilson.

Maybe it's because they're fellow Southlanders and I've had a bit to do with them over the years or maybe it's just because I'm too young, at 58 years of age, to remember much about their predecessors – Bill Carson, George Dickinson, Charlie Oliver, Curly Page and Eric Tindall.

Tindall is the exception to my history knowledge void because I know he holds the unique record in New Zealand sport of not only representing his country in rugby and cricket, but he also officiated as an international rugby referee and a test cricket umpire.

Traditionally the domain of rugby and cricket, the Double All Black is a sporting rarity. The advent of professionalism and the year round sporting seasons mean we will never again see a cross-code rugby and cricket player the likes of Jeff Wilson.


Representing your country in cross-over sports such as rugby and rugby league or netball and basketball is still quite possible plus there's always the odd sporting freak such as Hamish Bond (rowing and cycling) and Suzie Bates (cricket and basketball) who never cease to amaze.

During my recent jaunt to the New Zealand Shearing Championships in the wonderful King Country town of Te Kuiti, I was lucky enough to be seated beside a legend in the industry and a rural sporting rarity – double agrarian All Black John Fagan.

John is the older brother of the world's GOAT shearer, Sir David Fagan (in this instance goat refers to the Greatest Of All Time, but I'm sure even Sir David has done battle with the wriggling little blighters in the past!).

John Fagan holds the unique agrarian record of being a winner of the Golden Shears and the Golden Pliers fencing competition at Mystery Creek, the latter event on four occasions (1973, 74, 76, and 77). His sole win in the Open shearing final at Masterton came to pass in 1984, but there can be no doubting his record on the handpiece.

At the height of his shearing powers in the early 1980s he became one of only two men to have concurrently held the Everest of shearing records – both the ewe and lamb nine hour records.

As with Jeff Wilson, we will never see the likes again. It was truly remarkable that one man can shear in the summer and fence in the winter and reach the pinnacle of both sports.

It was also remarkable in Te Kuiti to see Rowland Smith win his sixth open title to go alongside his four at the Golden Shears. While he'll never threaten David Fagan's 16 titles at both Te Kuiti and Masterton, the mind boggles if these two were to have a hypothetical head-to-head battle in their respective primes.

And you've got to feel for the current world shearing champion Johnny Kirkpatrick, who has to be one of New Zealand's most remarkable athletes. Closer to 50 years of age than 40, and old enough to be the father of Super rugby player Daniel Kirkpatrick, his wonderful career has been book-ended by two titans.


The first of his four Golden Shears open titles in 2002 broke David Fagan's winning streak of 12 in a row and his most recent victory, in 2012, preceded the Rowland Smith era. He pushed Smith all the way in Te Kuiti in the open final and many, Rowland included, thought he had done enough to win.

The other highlight of my time in Te Kuiti was to visit the grave and pay respect to my GOAT New Zealander, Sir Colin Meads.

I ran into his younger brother and former All Blacks locking partner Stan at the shearing and told him I was planning to lay a wreath of flowers at Colin's temporary gravestone at the cemetery overlooking his beloved Te Kuiti. Stan told me he didn't reckon Pinetree was that into flowers, even though he was a dab hand at growing them.

So I got my thinking hat on and decided on a tribute, a Tui towelling hat, in memory of Pinetree's favourite beer.

May the sun always shine upon you Sir Colin Meads.