Coaching great Tom McLay dies
North Canterbury has lost one of its strongest sporting identities.
Russell Thomas McLay (Tom) passed away in hospital last week surrounded by his family at the age of 87.
McLay made a huge contribution to rugby with his dedication to the sport spanning some 60-years first as a player, then coach, selector and administrator.
McLay coached the Kowhai senior team in the mid 1970’s which amalgamated to become the Ashley Rugby Club. He then moved on to become the North Canterbury senior rugby coach for eight years from 1972 to1980 before taking two years off and being reappointed again from 1982 to 1986. McLay also coached Canterbury Country from 1987 to 1989.
During his time of coaching North Canterbury McLay coached some of the greatest All Blacks and Canterbury players of that time. Including Alex Wyllie, Doug Bruce, John Ashworth, Graeme Higginson, Robbie and Bruce Deans, Richard Loe, Chris and Andy Earl, Donald Rennie and many others.
Over his 14 -year career as selector and coach of North Canterbury A, they lost the coveted Southbridge Shield only twice to Ellesmere, his ‘‘great rival’’ as he called them.
McLay’s son David said a rugby highlight for his father was always the famous town versus country match which was played every year at Queen’s Birthday Weekend.
‘‘It was essentially a Canterbury trial and it was big,’’ David McLay said. Tom McLay was a life member of the Kaiapoi Rugby Club and the North Canterbury Sub Union.
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Tom McLay (front, 2nd from end) coached the North Canterbury A Rep team in 1977 which included a number of All Black greats.