Oldest All Black passes away at 99
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) Acting Chairman Mike Eagle and Chief Executive Steve Tew today paid tribute to the enormous contribution Eric Tindill gave to rugby, cricket and sport in general.
“As New Zealanders we are very proud of his inspirational contribution not only to New Zealand rugby and cricket as a player, but also as a much respected Test referee in both codes,” Mike Eagle said.
Steve Tew said Eric’s passing means New Zealand loses its only living link to another generation of All Blacks.Scoring 98 in any sport is great, New Zealand’s oldest living All Black has just hit that total in birthdays today and he is a legend with many records of greatness.
Eric Tindill has a record in New Zealand sport that can be truly described as unique. Tindill was in that select band of sportsmen who have played for New Zealand in both rugby and cricket, the so-called double All Blacks. Tindill's representation for the All Blacks and the New Zealand cricket side has a dimension that none of the other double All Blacks can boast, making him truly the rarest of them all in NZ.
For Tindill received an official test cap in both sports. Of the others George Dickinson and Curly Page played only in cricket tests, Charlie Oliver, Jeff Wilson and Brian McKechnie played only in rugby tests and Bill Carson never played a test in either sport.
As if this was not enough he carried on after his playing days to take up the operation of the whistle and the finger in the middle. Achieving internationals in both rugby and cricket he then added to this distinction by refereeing rugby tests, the All Blacks first two against the touring Lions in 1950 in Dunedin and Christchurch and then the second test against the Wallabies in Dunedin in 1955.
Hungry for more action in the summer of 1958-59 he returned to Lancaster Park and umpired New Zealand's cricket test against England.
In both rugby and cricket Tindill was noted for quiet efficiency and lack of histrionics. As a cricketer he was a wicketkeeper and a sound batsman capable of scoring centuries at first class level, as he did frequently for Wellington. As a rugby player he was an inside back, with equal facility at either halfback or first five eighths. He also had a considerable penchant for potting goals.
As a stalwart member of Wellington's old Athletic club, Tindill played frequently for Wellington between 1932 and 1945.
His appearances, however, were curtailed to an extent by both his cricket involvement and by considerable competition among inside backs in Wellington in the 1930s.
In the five eighths Wellington could then call on a number of All Blacks such as Rusty Page and Jack Griffiths and at halfback Tindill was frequently up against the likes of other internationals in Frank Kilby and Joey Sadler.
But among his notable appearances for the province were the Ranfurly Shield challenges against Otago in 1936 and Southland in 1938.
A surprise inclusion in the 1935 trials, Tindill was included in the All Black side for the British tour as a five eighths even though most of his rugby till then had been at halfback. He made 14 appearances on that tour and dropped five goals. He was a surprise choice ahead of Griffiths for the international against England, a match that resulted in a 13-0 drubbing.
Tindill was recalled to the All Blacks for the 1938 tour of Australia, making three midweek appearances as the halfback understudy to Charlie Saxton. He was in the North Island side in 1939 and in the trials to help pick the side intended to go to South Africa in 1940.
Because of the outbreak of World War II the tour was cancelled. But according to one authority, Winston McCarthy, Tindill would almost certainly have been on that tour, too, as the second string halfback behind Saxton.
As a cricketer he represented Wellington 1933-50, toured with the New Zealand team to England 1937 and Australia 1937-38 as well as playing in home series 1936-37, 1938-39, 1945-46 and 1946-47.
Tindill gave sport enormous service when his long-playing career in each of his two sports ended in the 1940s. He was an excellent referee and cricket umpire and in cricket was for many years the secretary of the Wellington Cricket Association as well as a selector for both Wellington and New Zealand.
Two of his sons were also fine sportsmen. Paul played at first class level for Wellington in both rugby and cricket and Dennis played rugby for Wellington B in 1964.
FORU thanks the NZ Rugby Museum for all facts and history research for this article.