Monday, 2 October, 2017
Peter Burke remembered as Taranaki legend
Taranaki Rugby and New Zealand Rugby are mourning the death today of one of the great all-round contributors to the game, former All Blacks and Taranaki player, coach, selector and administrator Peter Burke (90).
Taranaki Rugby Football Union chairman Lindsay Thomson said the passing of a Taranaki centurion and one of a small group of people to have been made a New Zealand Rugby Union life member was very sad.
“Peter was someone who exemplified what Taranaki rugby was about,” he said. “He reached the pinnacle of what can be achieved playing rugby and went on to become a respected coach, selector and rugby administrator.
“Rugby was a massive part of who Peter was and he leaves a great legacy through his contribution to Taranaki and New Zealand rugby. There are a limited number of people who become life members of New Zealand Rugby, so Peter’s inclusion shows just how much he was valued.”
His dedication to rugby never waned. In later years, Burke still regularly attended Taranaki matches and was a familiar face around the region’s club rugby grounds, having played for Hawera, Stratford and Tukapa.
“Peter loved nothing more than being involved with rugby and talking about rugby – it was very important to him and he always kept a great interest in the game,” Thomson said.
“Taranaki Rugby’s condolences and our thoughts go out to Peter’s family. He will be greatly missed.”
New Zealand Rugby Union chair Brent Impey acknowledged Burke’s life-long commitment to rugby.
“The contribution that Peter gave to our game was immense. After a dedicated playing career, Peter continued his involvement for decades to follow as a coach and administrator; our game is better off because of men like Peter. Our thoughts are with his family and the Taranaki rugby community at this time,” Impey said.
Burke, who was known as Bugle, played at lock and No 8 and was the first Taranaki representative to play 100 games for the province, finishing his career having donned the amber and black 117 times between 1948 and 1959.
During that period he spent a long time as captain, including the Ranfurly Shield era of 1957-59, when he played a crucial role in the successful defence of the shield 13 times. He was also captain when Taranaki held the Springboks to a 3-3 draw in 1956.
His ability was recognised by the national selectors early on, and he was first picked for the All Blacks in 1951. He eventually played 12 matches in three stints for the All Blacks – 1951, 1955 and 1957 – including three successful tests against Australia. He never lost a match when wearing the black jersey.
After his playing career came to an end, Burke quickly moved into coaching and administration. He was a Taranaki selector from 1960-68 and assistant coach of the union from 1963-65. During this time the Taranaki team won the Ranfurly Shield and held it for 15 defences, which remains the union’s greatest shield tenure.
From 1970-75 he was a North Island selector, and in 1978 he coached the team. The same year he was appointed a New Zealand selector and coached the New Zealand Colts. He went on to coach the New Zealand Juniors in 1979 and 1980.
In 1981 he took charge of the All Blacks, with his first assignment as coach being two home tests against Scotland, which New Zealand won. Next was the controversial Springboks tour, with the All Blacks winning the series 2-1. Burke then took the All Blacks to France and Romania later in the year, and ended his All Blacks coaching career with a Bledisloe Cup series win over Australia in 1982. Overall he coached the All Blacks to nine wins in 11 matches.
Burke then turned to administration and became a New Zealand Rugby Foundation delegate in 1987. In 1989 he became president of the Taranaki Rugby Football Union, and in 1994 he was named president of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.
He also served for many years as manager of other teams, liaison officer for touring teams and was a NZRU judicial officer and on the NZRU Appeal Council.
In 1997 his contribution to the sport was recognised, by being made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
A life member of Taranaki Rugby and the union’s first patron, in 2008 Burke’s influence on the development and success of New Zealand rugby was honoured when he was named a life member of the New Zealand Rugby Union.
The Peter Burke Trophy, named in Burke’s honour, is contested between Taranaki and Bay of Plenty –Burke was born in Tauranga and his representative career began with Bay of Plenty.
As a fitting tribute, Burke’s funeral will be held at 1pm on Thursday, in the Legends Lounge at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth.