Former All Black playmaker Bruce Watt dies aged 82

Publish Date
Tue, 20 Jul 2021, 6:24PM
Bruce Watt, captured on film in 1962, has died aged 82. (Photo / Getty)
Bruce Watt, captured on film in 1962, has died aged 82. (Photo / Getty)

Former All Black playmaker Bruce Watt dies aged 82

Publish Date
Tue, 20 Jul 2021, 6:24PM

Former All Blacks first five eighth Bruce Watt has passed away at the age of 82.

Watt played 29 times for the All Blacks between 1962 and 1964, scoring two tries on debut against Australia, and went on to become a leading figure in South Island rugby during the 1970s.

The early 1960s produced a talented crop of playmakers, all competing for the All Black No 10 jersey and Watt's test comrades included the likes of Steve Nesbit, Adrian Clarke, Tony Davies, Neil Wolfe, Mack Herewini, Peter Murdoch and Earle Kirton.

A highlight of Watt's career was the 1963/64 tour of Britain and France where he appeared in 20 of the 36 matches, including tests against England, Scotland and Wales, dropping a goal in the latter game.

His All Black career came to an end in the first test against the 1964 Wallabies, though Watt continued to feature in South Island and All Black trials until 1967 and was considered unlucky not to be selected for the 1967 tour of Britain, Canada and France. In all, Watt appeared in 197 first class games, 117 of them for Canterbury.

After hanging up the boots, Watt went on to serve as a South Island under 18 selector from 1972-75 and as co-coach for Marlborough (1976) and Nelson Bays (1978-79).

Watt suffered from Parkinson's disease later in life, an ailment his family suspected was linked to a rugby career riddled with head-knocks.

"He had concussion many times and I'm told was often the 'target' of bigger guys as he was a bit lippy," his daughter, Belinda, told the Herald in 2016.

"He remembers one time being badly concussed in an All Blacks game and because there were no other players left, he was asked to go back on the field. He did not remember the whole second half. I guess it's impossible to tell but we also believe there might be a link between the head hits and Parkinson's, not just dementia."

Watt's biography on the All Blacks official website also recalls his love of marathon running, a hobby he took to the extreme while playing for Canterbury.

"During his rugby career Bruce Watt ran a number of marathons. On Canterbury's Queen's Birthday trips to play Buller and the West Coast Watt would strip down and, when given the nod by the bus driver, would run on the spot in the aisle. He would pound away until the bus driver told him they had travelled 26 miles and 385 yards."