One of the first names selected on any list of all-time great All Blacks, Bryan ‘BeeGee’ Williams is a name synonymous with New Zealand’s national game. Bryan was thrust into the international spotlight as a 19 year old try scoring phenomenon on the All Black tour to South Africa in 1970 and his name has remained top of mind locally, nationally and internationally as a player, coach and administrator ever since.
A long-time supporter of all things rugby from grass roots up, including a two year term as President of the NZRU during 2011 Rugby World Cup, Bryan believes World Masters Games 2017 will be one of the biggest sports festivals New Zealand has ever seen.
Q. How did you get involved in rugby?
I originally played rugby league for five years so I could play with my mates. When the team disbanded my two older brothers encouraged me to join them at Ponsonby Rugby Club. That was 1960 and I’ve been a fixture there ever since. It was always a family affair playing with my brothers and being supported by my parents. I played my first game for the Ponsonby premier team as a 16 year old while still at Mt Albert Grammar School. I was lucky to play rugby for a school and a club with long, proud and very successful rugby heritages. My first game for Auckland was in 1969 and one year later I was selected for the All Blacks for the 1970 tour to South Africa. I played for the All Blacks from 1970 to 1978 - 113 games, 38 tests and 65 tries.
Q. What are some of your greatest rugby memories?
Being part of the Gallaher Shield (Auckland club championship) winning team for Ponsonby on a number of occasions. Winning the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 1971 against our perennial foes, Canterbury. There were many memorable All Black victories, especially being part of the 1978 team which achieved the first ever Grand Slam in the UK beating England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
As a coach I was lucky enough to coach alongside the great Auckland coach Maurice Trapp and be part of a coaching group which established a record of 61 Ranfurly Shield defences in an era of names like Grant Fox, the Brooke brothers, the Whettons, Sean Fitzpatrick, Sir John Kirwan, Joe Stanley and Michael Jones.
On the administration front I’ve had the privilege of being involved at club, provincial and national level. I guess a very special memory was to have been elected to be the President of New Zealand Rugby in 2011, the year we hosted and won the Rugby World Cup.
Q. What’s unique about World Masters Games 2017? Why should players sign up?
Everyone dreams of playing rugby against international teams, and it’s a dream not many of us can actually realise. World Masters Games 2017 means players who aspire to play against international teams can do so in one of the greatest rugby countries in the world. The event gives rugby players a chance to participate, compete and enjoy the camaraderie which is such an integral part of rugby and of masters sport.
Q. What do you love about Auckland?
Many people don’t realise that Auckland is on a narrow isthmus with only 12 kilometres from the east to west coast. This means we have many, many beautiful beaches from the surf beaches on the west coast to the beautiful calmer ones on the east. There are easily accessible, beautiful bush walks and bike tracks – many in the amazing Waitakere ranges. And of course our waterfront is a stunning backdrop to the city and the 100s of eateries – bars, cafes, restaurants – which are located by the water.
Q. What are the ‘must sees and dos’ in Auckland and New Zealand?
For any self-respecting rugby player, no visit is complete without enjoying some conviviality and hospitality at the greatest rugby club in the world, Ponsonby Rugby Club. And of course there are ferry trips on the Harbour to Devonport on the North Shore or the likes of Waiheke Island. The city has a ‘must see’ Sky Tower which provides 360 degree views of the region. If visitors want to venture outside Auckland then the ‘musts’ are Queenstown, Wanaka and the Milford Sounds in the South Island and Rotorua, in the middle of the North Island, provides a uniquely New Zealand experience.
To find out about the World Masters Games 2017 rugby programme click here.