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This year’s National Poetry Day is being held on Friday, 24 August 2018.
PANZA has chosen a rare rugby poem, ‘My Homage to Pinetree’ by Tula Regos, in celebration of the late Sir Colin Meads, who passed away last year. The poem is among the poetry donations recorded at the New Zealand Rugby Museum which I have recently written about in the latest issue of Poetry Notes, Winter 2018.  Thanks to Stephen Berg, the Director, for help in locating the poems.
The poem about Pinetree records the unofficial retirement of Meads, when he turned out for a President’s side in 1973 and defeated the All Blacks. Yet another fitting addendum to the Meads legend. The previous year he withdrew from the 1972 All Black trials, which signalled the end of his career.
The poet is Tula Regos, a Manawatu local, obviously writing under a pseudonym, and we are currently unable to find out who he was, as the name of the poet isn’t recorded with the poem donations by the New Zealand Rugby Museum. There are a sizable number of his poems held by the Museum (at least 36 donations recorded, and some are multiple poems covering individual test series), and Regos seems to have written mostly on and recorded All Blacks matches, 1972-84. There are poems on the Manawatu team as well.
A Papers Past search revealed that “Regos” is Turkish for “troubadour”.
On the President’s game itself, Alex Veysey’s indispensable biography of Meads from 1974 contains a photo of the President’s team. It includes former All Blacks Sid Going (Vice-Captain), Brian Lochore and Graham Thorne, a star in the backline. No doubt a more than handy and capable side to take on the current All Blacks that year.


New Zealand rugby union president’s team of 1973. Crown Studios Ltd: Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-190755-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22583350


Veysey writes: “One of the most affecting happenings in all of rugby occurred at Athletic Park, Wellington, on August 4, 1973, when Meads led the New Zealand Rugby Union President’s Invitation XV against the All Blacks. Though it was never officially stated, the occasion was taken by everyone – the great crowd, the players and, to be sure, the administrators – as being a tribute to Meads. For Meads himself, it was unreal. There he was, the supreme patriot of New Zealand rugby, leading his cosmopolitan side to victory over the team bearing the name he cherished most – the All Blacks. He found it difficult to walk into the All Black dressing room to pay his respects. He said ‘I’m sorry you lost.’ He doubts that many believed he meant it.  But it came from the heart.”
Here is Tula Regos’s poem on the famous game and moment in New Zealand Rugby.


The mighty All Black team went down
To the President’s Fifteen.
It was really Champagne Rugby,
A pleasure to be seen.
With Pinetree as their skipper,
Fourteen more famous guys.
The President’s Fifteen went out
And scored six mighty tries.
They thrilled the forty thousand fans
Who cheered them all the way
And when Varo scored the last try
It really made their day.
The old campaigners they were called
On radio and Tee Vee.
But it took the old campaigners
To show some strategy.
Now it takes a gang of Lumberjacks
To fell some old Pinetrees,
Yet a team of mighty All Blacks
Could not fell that gang of Meads’.
At the end of play when in his speech
He told them with a grin,
That he was sad to beat the side
He’d always helped to win.
Now this was all a mighty bluff,
He said it for a lark,
A return game he will skipper
This week at Eden Park.
We wish him well and hope once more
He really calls their bluff
When he proves that old campaigners
Are made of better stuff.
Whichever way the game may go,
We still will all agree
We will never find a forward
To replace our OLD PINETREE.

Poem © Tula Regos 1973

Article © Mark Pirie

Colin Earl Meads. Ref: 1/2-207960-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22737724

The 32nd issue of the newsletter from Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa is available now for download as a pdf.

Inside Winter 2018, Volume 8, issue 4: Rugby poetry at the NZ Rugby Museum by Mark Pirie; classic New Zealand poetry by Honor Gordon Holmes (1911-1953); Paul McCartney 2017 Auckland concert poem by Michael O’Leary; comment on the poetry of Dan Davin by Niel Wright; poetry by Mark Young (Australia/NZ); donate to PANZA through PayPal; recently received donations; about the Poetry Archive.