Final whistle for All Black loosie

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by Rachael Comer

The region has lost a “rugby legend”.

Former All Black and South Canterbury rugby great Tom Lister died on Sundayaged 73.

His death has attracted messages from throughout the world, as people remember South Canterbury’s most capped All Black, who died after a short battle with cancer.

The rugged loose forward played 33 matches for New Zealand, including eight tests.

Lister was born in Ashburton and educated at Temuka Primary School and Waitaki Boys’ High School.

He began playing senior club rugby for Timaru Old Boys in 1962 and was selected for South Canterbury from 1962 to 1964.

He then went to Wellington and played for the Athletic club, making the Wellington provincial side from 1965 to 1967 and the Junior All Blacks in 1965-66.

On his return to South Canterbury in 1968, he made the All Black tour of Australia playing in the two tests, as well as playing the first test against France in Christchurch that year.

Lister played two tests against Wales in 1969, two against South Africa in South Africa in 1970 and the fourth test of the 1971 Lions series which was drawn 14-14.

South Canterbury rugby historian Jeremy Sutherland said Lister was a “legend”. He interviewed the former All Black for the region’s 125th rugby anniversary book.

“I spent a fair bit of time with him,” Sutherland said.

Lister was part of the South Canterbury side that beat Marlborough in 1974 in Blenheim to bring home the Ranfurly Shield and retain it against North Otago. Sutherland said Lister referred to this as his proudest moment.

“He reckoned winning the shield for his home team, playing for South Canterbury, was the highlight of his career.”

Sutherland remembered, as a boy, listening to rugby on the radio and his mother saying “that man from Timaru is playing for the All Blacks”.

Lister also played four matches for the South Island.

Former school friend Alan Broad attended Temuka Primary School with Lister and had fond memories of his old friend.

“We lived not far from Tom – two streets away in Temuka. A few of us used to go trout fishing too. We played hard in the school holidays, so did likewise on the [rugby] field.”