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Thread: Vale Fergie McCormick - One of the Greats

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    Immortal Contributor The InnFORCEr's Avatar
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    Vale Fergie McCormick - One of the Greats

    NZ Rugby mourns the loss of All Black great Fergie McCormick

    William Fergus 'Fergie' McCormick, born April 24, 1939, Ashburton, died after battling throat cancer on Tuesday morning, April 10, 2018. Educated at Papanui Primary School, Papanui High School. Tests, 16, total appearances 44. All Blacks debut, v South Africa, Eden Park, September 18, 1965, last Test v British & Irish Lions, Carisbrook, June 26, 1971. All Black No.653.

    'Fergie' McCormick came late to international rugby. Like many fullbacks of his generation the impediment to selection was the colossus that was D.B. Clarke who dominated the All Blacks from 1956-1964. And when Clarke retired, McCormick found Wellington's Mick Williment was the selectors' preferred option.

    But chance stepped in and in the final Test of the 1965 Springboks tour Williment was injured, although McCormick always believed he was chosen on merit, and he won his first cap in a dominating 20-3 win.

    Poor goal-kicking in the Test did not help his cause and Williment was returned for the 4-0 clean sweep of the Lions in 1966. Goal-kicking was only a late development in McCormick's career and he felt his chance to be a more consistent guardian at fullback had passed him by.

    However, one of the more bizarre incidents in All Blacks selection occurred in the naming of the side to tour Britain and France in 1967, a tour arranged in place of a cancelled tour to South Africa. When presenting the side to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union for approval it was realised there were 31 players included. Williment was the name dropped, and the rest is history.

    McCormick was seen by coach Fred Allen as the type of player he needed in order to play his running style of game, especially with his forays into the backline. The tour proved a triumph for McCormick. He played 12 games on the tour and scored 118 points, with 32 points in the Test matches. But it was his defensive work in crucial plays toward the end of the tour that proved most memorable to team-mates. Against East Wales, in a game rescheduled due to a heavy drop of snow, McCormick twice pulled off try-saving tackles when defeat seemed inevitable.

    Then, in the thrilling game against the Barbarians with the All Blacks down 3-6 and time running out, he twice gave flying wings Gerald Davies and Keri Jones head starts only to catch them from behind. New Zealand recovered position and Ian MacRae scored an equalising try, although McCormick missed the conversion.

    However, the Barbarians failed to find touch with a clearing kick on full-time and captain and No.8 Brian Lochore fielded the ball near halfway and initiated a play which saw wing Tony Steel cross for the winner which was capped by McCormick's sideline conversion.

    He held his place in the two Tests in Australia in 1968 and three Tests against France at home. Wales toured in 1969 and in the second Test he scored a world record 24 points courtesy of three conversions, five penalty goals and a dropped goal.

    McCormick was a certainty to tour South Africa in 1970 where his combativeness was seen as just the sort of thing the All Blacks needed to take on the Springboks. But McCormick was over-worked on the tour, not only on the field but on the training field and said by the end of the tour he was playing from memory. He was also involved in a controversial incident in the second Test when in attempting to cover a movement involving wing Syd Nomis chasing a kick ahead, his elbow caught Nomis in the face. There was a furore over the incident that must have contributed to his wearing down. But he still had enough skill to land the match-winning penalty goal before the end of the game.

    In his autobiography Fergie by Alex Veysey, McCormick said: "I had to turn and I knew bloody well that Sid had only to clear me, get a bounce and take off. Understand that in this sort of situation things are through your mind in a flash. There's no time to deliberate.

    "As I turned I checked and threw out my arms. My back was to Sid and I felt him thump into my left arm. Obstruction was firmly in my mind, for I sensed the kick was beyond my reach. I looked around and saw Sid spreadeagled. Alex Wyllie had been hanging onto him from behind, too. It must have looked shocking."

    South African newspapers rounded on McCormick for making a stiff-arm tackle but a few days later he got apologies from the same papers when photographs showed that McCormick had his back to Nomis at the point of the incident.

    "They showed clearly that I had my back to Nomis, that at no stage had I hit him, that he had run full belt into my outstretched arm," he said.

    Dropped for the fourth Test, he regained the position for the first Test, in Dunedin, against the touring British & Irish Lions in 1971. But it was to be an unfortunate end to his career. As related in New Zealand Rugby Greats, Lions coach Carwyn James didn't select star five-eighths Barry John for the Canterbury game a week before the Test. Instead, he told John to sit and watch McCormick's play because he didn't want him in the All Blacks after the first Test.

    The result was that John's tactical kicking ran McCormick all over Carisbrook which helped take its toll of McCormick's goal-kicking in the 3-9 loss. He said in his autobiography that he had missed two vital kicks and had been responsible for passing the ball to loose forward Alan Sutherland whose attempted clearing kick was charge down by Ian McLauchlan for the only try of the game.

    "I was disappointed after the game, hosed off with myself. I felt there was a nine-out-of-ten chance I'd be dropped and deep down I knew if that happened it could be curtains for ever," he said.

    Barry John said the Lions had been pleased with his axing because McCormick was 'a good player and potentially very dangerous'.

    The son of All Black Archie McCormick (1925), his son Andrew played for a New Zealand XV in 1991 and represented Japan from 1996-99.

    McCormick scored 453 points from his 44 All Blacks games. He scored 121 points in Tests. He is 14th on the list of first-class appearances by New Zealand players on 310 games between 1958 and 1978. His 2065 points in first-class games rates him 10th on the New Zealand scoring list.

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    his daughter was married to Alan Chesham who played for Neddies back in the late 70's.

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    Probably played a couple of seasons too long. I was at his last game at lancaster park in Christchurch vs North Auckland where he played full back for Canterbury. A shadow of his former self.

    A tough little bugger and part of a great era of all black rugby. VALE Fergie.

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