McCormick, the pocket rocket who hit like a heavyweight
ITALY’S Matteo Minozzi – 5ft 8in and 13 stone something – has provided ample evidence this season that contrary to the general perception you don’t need to be a giant to be successful at full-back and 50 years ago it was Fergie McCormick who did likewise for New Zealand.
McCormick, below, who passed away this week aged 78, was even shorter and lighter than Minozzi but that didn’t stop him becoming renowned for his tigerish tackling during 310 first class games – mainly for his beloved Canterbury – and 16 Tests for New Zealand.
During that career, McCormick scored 2,065 points including 121 for the All Blacks in Test rugby which is remarkable because he wasn’t even the best goalkicker at his club Linwood, where Peter Jellyman was always the preferred marksman. McCormick, nonetheless, for many years held the world Test record of seven penalties in a Test match, against Wales in 1969.
Even the Kiwis had their doubts about McCormick who succeeded the giant Don Clark in the New Zealand No.15 shirt, initially they went for the imposing Mark Willment from Wellington before they reassessed the situation and admitted that sometimes a good little ‘un was better than a good big ‘un.
“He was an amazing tackler,” says his former All Blacks skipper Sir Brian Lochore. “He was an absolute rock solid full-back and ferocious in the tackle. I’d say some wings were even afraid of him. His physical presence – as a tackler – used to cause them to make a bad pass or spill the ball.
McCormick kept playing until 1975 when at the age of 36 he scored the winning try for Canterbury against the touring Scotland side.