Mike McCool at the time of his selection for the All Blacks. PHOTO/TIMES-AGE

GRANT HARDING
grant.harding@age.co.nz

Mike McCool, who became an All Black from Wairarapa-Bush in 1979, died suddenly on Tuesday.

It’s believed he was working on the family lifestyle property in the Auckland region at the time.

McCool played lock for the All Blacks in a 6-12 loss to Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1979, a match that became famous for the Wallabies parading the Bledisloe Cup around afterwards.

It ignited a new passion for the trophy after the All Blacks had held it for 30 years. Unfortunately for McCool, who had also played a warm-up match against Queensland B, it was the end of his international career.

However, he continued to serve Wairarapa-Bush until 1983, eventually playing 50 games.

He was an integral part of the team which won promotion to the NPC First Division at the end of 1981.

Captain of that team, Gary McGlashan, had not heard the sad news when the Times-Age rang on Friday and took a few moments to compose himself.

“He was a real team man,” he said. “A perfectionist. Everything had to be right for him.”

McGlashan, who played hooker, said McCool would often demand an extra 15 minutes after practice to hone their lineout combination.

“He will be sadly missed old Mike. He was a good bugger.”

Originally from Hawke’s Bay, he was educated at St Patrick’s College Silverstream.

McCool returned to the Bay and entered first class rugby with the Magpies in 1972 playing 77 games and representing the New Zealand Juniors [in 1974] before farming brought him south in 1979, the year of his All Black selection.

Having had an excellent All Black trial, his only one, McCool became the replacement lock to partner Andy Haden when Frank Oliver was struck by injury.

McCool played for Pongaroa United.

Puketoi delegate to the Wairarapa-Bush Union at the time was David Galvin who was chairman of the union from 1980-87.

“He was black and white, straight up and down, very loyal in all facets of life including sport,” Galvin said on Friday.

“It took him more than an hour to get to rep practice and I don’t think he was ever late for Brian [Lochore] or Lane [Penn].”

McCool had suffered accidents and ill health over the years, Galvin said, but had landed on his feet in Auckland with a lifestyle property and a small business.

“It is a sad loss. He was always the same. Always friendly. Always genuine. Good company.”

Describing McCool as a “legend of our game”, Wairarapa-Bush chief executive officer Tony Hargood said, McCool was the first Wairarapa-Bush player selected as an All Black after the amalgamation in 1971.

Lochore played for the All Blacks in 1971 but had been a national representative since 1963.

“Our sympathies are with his family during this time of loss,” Hargood said.

McCool was 68, and is survived by his wife of 45 years, Deb, four of his five children, and eight grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held in Hastings, with a memorial service to follow in Auckland.