Matiu 'Mattie' Blackburn
9.3.1944 - 7.12.2017
Highly respected former New Zealand Maori first-five and long-time rugby administrator Mattie Blackburn has passed away at the age of 73.
Blackburn made an immense contribution to rugby in New Zealand at all levels including holding the post of New Zealand Maori selector for a decade between 1979 and 1989, and sitting on the New New Zealand Rugby Council from 1990 to 1995.
Originally from Raetihi, Blackburn made his mark in Wellington where his feats, particularly his famous left foot drop goals, became the stuff of folklore for the Wellington Football Club, and the Wellington Lions, who he represented 52 times between 1966 and 1970.
He was good enough to play two matches for the New Zealand Maori in 1969 and went on to be both a selector and later highly regarded manager of the team.
Blackburn remained active in rugby until his final days and was a current member of Wellington Rugby's appointments committee.
Wellington Rugby chairman Iain Potter said he could not speak more highly of Blackburn's contribution and character.
"Mattie was highly regarded and highly respected across every level of Wellington Rugby. His contribution to rugby in the region was huge and his influence on young players was immeasurable over a long period of time. He will be hugely missed, but never forgotten."
Perhaps Blackburn's most well remembered moment as a player was when he kicked two drop goals at McLean Park during Wellington's unforgettable Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke's Bay in 1967.
Blackburn's two drop goals had Wellington leading in the final minutes, and on the brink of a famous victory only for Hawke's Bay opposite Blair Furlong to respond with a drop goal of his own to tie the game 12-12 and keep the Shield in Napier.
The dramatic finish sparked historic scenes as a record McLean Park crowd of more than 29,000 mobbed the Hawke's Bay players on the final whistle.
Blackburn and Furlong would become lifelong friends and exchanged memories for the final time last weekend.
At club level Blackburn achieved legendary status as a player with the Wellington Football Club after joining the Axemen in 1962.
When he had hung up his boots he moved into administration, holding every known administrative position at the club before being made Patron earlier this year.
Blackburn also played for the Ponsonby club late in his career and was good enough to represent Auckland in 1971.
Blackburn's representative career: New Zealand Maori 2 games (1969); Wellington 52 games (1966-1970) - 16 drop goals; Wellington B (1964-65); Auckland (1971); Auckland B (1972)
Funeral details: For those wishing to pay their respects, Mattie’s funeral will be held on Monday 11th December at Pipitea Marae, Thorndon Quay, at 11am.