Wellington: Keith Murdoch, an All Blacks prop who fled New Zealand after being sent home from a tour to Britain, has died in Australia aged 74.
Murdoch was the first All Black to be sent home from an overseas tour when he was expelled from the 1972 British tour for punching a security guard at a hotel in Cardiff. The incident occurred on the morning after of a 19-16 test win over Wales in which Murdoch scored a try.
Some teammates thought Murdoch’s punishment was too severe for an offence they believed was partially provoked. However, according to reports, Murdoch punched the guard when he was refused entry to a bar which had just closed.
Players and other observers subsequently claimed British rugby authorities placed pressure on All Blacks manager Ernie Todd to send Murdoch home.
Angry and unprepared to face the media in New Zealand, Murdoch left his return flight in Australia and disappeared into the Western Australian outback where he spent the rest of his life.
He made a handful of trips home to visit his mother in New Zealand but steadfastly refused to speak to media and to explain the circumstances around his offence and its aftermath.
In a famous story, a leading New Zealand sports writer T.P. McLean, decided several years after Murdoch’s disappearance to seek him out and offer him the chance to tell his story.
McLean, visiting Perth, heard Murdoch was working in a remote oil-drilling town and travelled hours by minibus to find him.
When he stepped down from the bus, McLean almost immediately came face to face with Murdoch, who was wielding a large spanner wrench.
McLean asked for an interview, but the only words Murdoch spoke, shifting the wrench from one hand to the other, were: “Get back on the bus.”
Asked how he responded, McLean said “I got back on the bus.”
Murdoch was regarded as one of the strongest men ever to play for the All Blacks and played three tests among 21 matches between 1970 and 1972. In nine seasons, he played for the Otago, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland provinces. But he never played rugby again after the 1972 tour.