Bigsy’s life story is now for­ever in print

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - ERIN TASKER

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.

ERIN TASKER/STUFF

John ‘Bigsy’ McLay and wife Faith at his book’s launch on Fri­day night at the Ho­tel Ash­bur­ton.

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