‘Wonderful’ icon mourned
Tributes have flowed for All Black great Sir Brian Lochore since his death from cancer on Saturday.
Sir Brian, simply ‘BJ’ to many, died peacefully at his home in Wairarapa, after a battle with bowel cancer.
He was 78.
Sir Brian’s wife, Lady Pam, and the couple’s three children, David, Joanne, and Sandra, said they were mourning, but relieved his suffering had ended.
Son David Lochore thanked doctors and palliative care nurses for what they had done for his father.
“Dad led a life that was full and one which he was very proud of. Our hearts are breaking at a life we feel still had much to give.”
A service to celebrate Sir Brian’s life will be held at Masterton’s Memorial Park, at 1pm on Thursday.
Mayors and other community leaders led praise for what Sir Brian had contributed both on the sporting field and beyond.
Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson described him as a “true community man”, recalling his work for the likes of the Masterton Secondary Schools Board, and as patron of CatWalk Trust, promoting research in treating spinal injuries.
“He gave very freely of his time,” she said.
“I don’t think there would be an organisation in Wairarapa where he has not been a guest speaker.”
Patterson also paid tribute to Sir Brian’s family, who had “shared” him with the community, and described him as a “home town lad”.
“He loved the region where he grew up; despite his significant success which could have taken him anywhere, his heart was always here in Wairarapa.
“I don’t know whether we will see the likes of Sir Brian again.”
Carterton Mayor John Booth was fulsome in his praise of the man he called “the wonderful BJ”.
“He was the nicest human being I have met in my life … he had such mana, but he was such a humble man.”
As a 19-year-old, he played rugby for Red Star when Sir Brian was coaching rivals Masterton.
“He would take the field when needed, and you would find yourself next to this monster, with hands like hams, wondering what was going to happen to you … but he was a real gentleman.”
Throughout his life, Sir Brian had made himself available, Booth said.
“The community asked a lot of him when it needed help, and he always helped,” Booth said.
Sir Brian was a year ahead of former international referee Bob Francis at Wairarapa College.
“In those days he was recognised as a great tennis player,” Francis said.
“He was obviously a very good rugby player but he was probably the best male tennis player at the school.”
The pair became friends as Francis’ refereeing career coincided with Sir Brian’s playing career.
“In those days, All Blacks would come back from playing overseas and they would be playing club rugby the next week.
“You mixed socially as referees and made a lot of friendships.”
Francis said he had refereed a lot of captains, at all levels of rugby, and appreciated that Sir Brian wasn’t one to apply pressure to officials.
“He had a point of view, of course, and occasionally he would share that with you, but he wasn’t a [Colin] Meads or a [Sean] Fitzpatrick – they could give refs a pretty hard time.”
Sir Brian had a considerable influence in the field of education.
He spent some time as chairman of the board of Wairarapa College, and when Greytown’s Kuranui College was in crisis in the mid-90s, Education Minister Lockwood Smith appointed him commissioner after sacking the board of trustees.
He rated it as one of his greatest challenges outside of rugby, reflecting that much of his time was spent talking to pupils, staff, and parents, emphasising ground rules which had to be followed whether they liked it or not.
“The main aim was to instil a sense of confidence and pride into everybody associated with the college and eventually we managed to do that.”
Kuranui principal Simon Fuller said the school had lost a “dear friend”.
“He guided the school through the toughest period of its history and we will always be grateful for his inspirational leadership during that challenging time,” he said.
“Today’s students are still enjoying the benefits of his work 25 years later.”
Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chief executive Tony Hargood described him as an icon of Wairarapa’s sporting community.
“There is possibly no one in New Zealand who can say they have not been affected in some way or form from Sir Brian’s contribution to our country. From winning the first ever Rugby World Cup in 1987 to his leadership on many trusts and community groups.”
Graeme “Bunter” Anderson was the halfback in the 1981 Wairarapa-Bush team that won promotion to the NPC First Division and went on to coach Eketahuna, and the Wairarapa-Bush team in 1995 and 1996.
He remembers Sir Brian as “a man with such huge mana, who everyone just respected so much”.
“He loved the down-to-earth people, the Chris Kapenes, the Charlie Kakas, the Bracewells [Doug and Mark], the hard-case people – he related to them; he had no airs and graces.
“When I was coaching Eketahuna, I used him, and he came in when I was coaching Wairarapa-Bush. It was quite amazing – the local guys just knew him as BJ, but the guys from Wellington were gobsmacked.
“It was like having a god in the room.”
Anderson said there was nothing complicated about Sir Brian’s game plan.
“He was such a unique guy who had a way of getting people to play for him. He used to say, ‘they’ve got arms and legs, just like the rest of us’.”
Anderson understood Sir Brian was still in contact with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in his last days and had offered advice that Hansen switch Kieran Read to the blindside flank and play Ardie Savea at No 8.
Look out for that development.