Bigsy’s life story is now forever in print
The life of an Ashburton man who was feared by his opponents in his rugby playing days is now the subject of a book.
The book – Bigsy McLay: In the Zone – is a pictorial biography about Mid Canterbury rugby centurion John ‘Bigsy’ McLay, looking at his rugby career, and mentoring of young sports people. It was officially launched at the Hotel Ashburton on Friday night.
McLay suffers from Huntington’s Disease – a progressive brain disorder – and it’s something that he’s tackled just like he has everything in his life, with a tremendously positive attitude.
Jock Ross played rugby with McLay and is a long-time friend.
‘‘He played about 104 games for Mid Canterbury and I played most of them with him,’’ Ross said.
‘‘He was an uncompromising kind of fellow. You had to work hard to get Bigsy’s respect.
‘‘He was a number eight, that was his specialty, but he had a bad accident and damaged his knee and was never quite the same. But he was so important to keep on the paddock that we moved him up to the front row.
‘‘He didn’t bow to anybody. Losing was not an option, and he was a very difficult man to stop close to the goal line; he had a very low centre of gravity.
‘‘The reason he was called Bigsy was because he was big, but he was a bit lighter in the legs so he was very mobile. But he was a strong upper body fellow.’’
McLay – who also played for the New Zealand Colts and New Zealand Universities – and Ross played during what was arguably Mid Canterbury rugby’s strongest period, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Teams feared coming to Ashburton, Ross said.
‘‘And it was people like Bigsy McLay that set that standard.
‘‘If I was going onto a rugby field and it was going to be a battle, the first person I would want standing next to me was Bigsy McLay.’’
In The Zone is McLay’s life story, as told to Ashburton author Val Taylor, and it features a number of testimonials including one from Ross, and another from McLay’s famous rugby playing nephew, former All Black captain Richie McCaw, one of the many young sports people he has mentored over the years.
It is now available for purchase from Ashburton Paper Plus for $40.
John ‘Bigsy’ McLay and wife Faith at his book’s launch on Friday night at the Hotel Ashburton.