As the 75th anniversary of Swansea's famous victory over the 3rd All Blacks in 1935 approaches, we are saddened to hear of the passing on of New Zealand's Eric Tindill, the last surviving player from that game.
Born Eric William Thomas Tindill (18 Dec 1910) he died on 1st August 2010 and held the distinction of being the oldest surviving All Black (at 99 years of age) and also the oldest living Test cricketer. In a remarkable career, he made further claim as the only New Zealander to have played Tests for his country at cricket and rugby, referee a rugby union Test and umpire a cricket Test.
He played domestic first class cricket for Wellington from 1932–33 to 1949–50 and, in addition to his wicket keeping, served as a left-handed opener. He toured England under Curly Page in 1937 and, in a match played in Adelaide to help cover the costs of the England tour, caught Don Bradman for 11 in his only appearance against a New Zealand team off the bowling of Jack Cowie in the opening over of the Saturday's play. Unfortunately this caused large numbers of spectators who were queuing to enter the ground to leave, costing the New Zealand team the gate money and defeating the purpose of the game. He was later an Umpire, standing in one Test in 1959, and a Test selector. His son, Paul Tindill, also played first-class cricket for Wellington.
In rugby, he alternated between half-back and first five-eighth for Wellington. The vast supply of midfield talent in Wellington during the 1930s made it difficult for him to get noticed, but the selectors for the All Blacks were remarkably thorough at seeking out talent—the trials for the team that would tour England in 1935–36 would see 188 players take part. He was selected for that tour and would play one Test against England in 1936, a match most famous for the two tries scored by England's Alexander Obolensky. Although this was his only rugby Test, he would play 16 matches in all with the All Blacks, and famed rugby commentator Winston McCarthy was certain that Tindill would have won selection for the 1940 tour of South Africa had it not been scrapped due to the outbreak of World War II.
Tindill also refereed rugby at Test level. He was noted for his keen instinct of the game's progress; McCarthy would recall, "In one match in which six tries were scored I saw the six of them scored at Eric's feet as he waited for the player to ground the ball." The pinnacle of his career as a rugby referee came in 1950, when he oversaw the first two Tests of the Series between the Lions and All Blacks.
Tindill then aged 25, played at first five-eighth (stand off) for the All Blacks in the game at St Helens on 28th September which Swansea won 11 - 3 thus becoming the first club side to have defeated the 'big three' southern hemesphere countries of Australia (1908, 1966 & 1992), South Africa (1912) and the All Blacks (1935). He also played in the Welsh tour games against Abertillery/Cross Keys and Neath/Aberavon. Wales and Swansea's oldest capped player Haydn Tanner, who also played in the famous 1935 Swansea match - aged 18 as was his half back partner and school mate Willie Davies - died in June last year aged 92.
Swansea Rugby Club hope to mark the 75th anniversary of the 1935 game in a number of ways throughout the season.
Many thanks to rugby journalist Howard Evans for the above information.