Minister for Māori Development, Willie Jackson, has acknowledged the passing of All Blacks Legend, Waka Joseph Nathan who passed away on Friday, aged 81.
A Ngapuhi, Tainui descendant, Waka made his All Blacks debut in 1962.
“I was saddened to learn about the death of the great Waka Nathan, who many would rate as the greatest Māori rugby player of his era. I got to know Waka when I was on Aotearoa Radio in the early 90s and when he had his butcher shop in Mangere Bridge,” Minister Jackson said.
“He was like many of our Māori sports icons of his era incredibly humble and gracious with his time. Everyone wanted to talk to him, and everyone wanted to be like him, Waka was a hero to all, Māori, Pākeha, Pasifika and particularly his South Auckland community where he had grown up.
“Waka’s feats on the field during the All Blacks 1963/64 tour of Britain are legendary. He played on with a broken jaw, scoring an incredible 11 tries in 15 matches. His style of play, as a hard-tackling and free-running flanker, would have been well suited to the modern game.”
Given the nickname Le Panthère Noir (The Black Panther) by the French during that tour, he would go on to play 14 Tests and 23 matches for the All Blacks. He also played for the Māori All Blacks from 1960-66, and became a rugby stalwart for Auckland Rugby playing 88 games for the province.
“Waka was a man of incredible mana who bought not only pride to the jersey but he made rangatahi proud to be Māori. It was not just on the field where Waka made his mark on the game, but off it as well.”
“During his reign as Māori All Blacks coach and selector from 1971-77, Waka paved the way for Māori rugby in Aotearoa. My condolences go out to Waka’s whānau for their loss of a great man,” Mr Jackson said.