Farewell to a Bay of Plenty rugby great

By: Sideline Sid Author

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

One of the big oak trees of Western Bay and Bay of Plenty rugby has fallen with the recent passing of Brian McCord.

Brian lived a full life and was in his mid-eighties when he passed away. He was man of his times and loved the kiwi icons of rugby, racing and beer.

Rugby was a lifetime love that occupied his attention throughout his long and prosperous life. He was a player in his youth, before turning to the management and administration of the game.

Brian McCord was the backbone of the game in the Western Bay of Plenty for several decades. He was elected president of the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union and served on the then management committee for a number of years.

Sideline Sid, sat down with Brian on a couple of occasions to document two significant local rugby happenings, he was part of in his long association with the game.

In 1947, a young teenage McCord was selected for the Tauranga Tai Mitchell team, which contested the annual tournament, played that year at the Tauranga Domain. The winners of the Bay of Plenty intermediate school age rugby tournament still receive the Tai Mitchell Shield, first presented in 1938.

The 1947 Tauranga Tai Mitchell team.

The 1947 Tauranga Tai Mitchell team, was selected from schools within the Tauranga County, and was coached by Joe Ward, a teacher at Tauranga Primary School. In those times, there was no Saturday morning junior rugby, with schools playing each other during the week.

Facilities at the Tauranga Domain in 1947, as described by Brian, were a far cry from today. There was no grandstand, with just terraced seating and changing room amenities limited to two army huts.

In the lead up to the 1971 British Lions tour of New Zealand, Tauranga rugby administrators lobbied the New Zealand Rugby Union to allocate a game to the Tauranga Domain. Previously international tours stopped off in Rotorua, which was the provincial capital of the Bay of Plenty.

Brian was in the forefront of a small army of volunteers that saw some twenty thousand spectators packed like sardines into the ground.

A major task was installing the temporary seating that encompassed the ground. Local rugby volunteers took a couple of weeks to install planks on the erected scaffolding, with timber which was in short supply arriving from as far away as Kawerau.

The entire match-day workforce came from the local club volunteers, who toiled as gatekeepers, ushers, security and at the after-match function, which was a big affair.

Bay of Plenty, almost upset the apple-cart against one of the best internationals sides to ever visit New Zealand, with the Lion scrambling home 20-14. The Bay of Plenty team won the try-scoring stakes running in three touchdowns to two.

The game turned out to generate the best gate receipts of all the mid-week Lions matches, and resulted in a Bay of Plenty encounter against the visiting Australians at the domain the following year.

Brian was still a regular at Tauranga Domain rugby encounters this season, with Sideline Sid enjoying what turned out to be his last chat with Brian, when his beloved Tauranga Sports played Rangiuru during the winter.

RIP Brian McCord.