All Black legend honoured for lifetime's service

By James Perry

Māori All Black legend Waka Nathan has been made a life member of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board (NZMRB) at their Annual General Meeting in Wellington on Wednesday night.

Nicknamed the Black Panther during his career, Nathan debuted for Auckland as a 19-year-old in 1959 and played the best part of the next seven years for both the Māori All Blacks and the New Zealand All Blacks.

He played 14 tests, remarkably never losing any. 

After retiring from playing, he became a selector for the Māori side and was the team manager on their 1982 tour of Wales and Spain. 

Nathan also served as an administrator, sitting on the New Zealand Rugby Union council for a period in the 1980s.

Such was his impact on Auckland rugby that the Auckland club pre-season competition is named in his honour.

Current NZMRB chair Dr Farah Palmer says Nathan's life membership is a recognition of the 77-year-old's continued service to Māori rugby. 

"He's played a key role in improving and increasing the profile of Māori rugby players and Māori rugby," says Palmer, "He's been involved on and off the field in so many capacities so we wanted to acknowledge his lifetime contribution to Māori rugby and we think he is an ideal person to be brought into that life membership role."