Former All Black and Tukapa 'legend' Ash Gardiner dies aged 74

New Zealand Rugby is mourning the loss of former All Black Ashley Gardiner, who played more than 100 games for Taranaki.

Gardiner, a tight head prop, played 11 games, including one test, for the All Blacks in 1974, touring Australia and Ireland. His test cap came against Australia in Sydney.

Gardiner died in New Plymouth on Monday, January 18, aged 74.

Taranaki Rugby chief executive Laurence Corlett said he first met Gardiner in 2005.

‘’He was a big powerful man. Loved a beer, loved a chat.’’

He played 102 games for Taranaki, Corlett said.

“A great guy. He epitomised everything that is good about rugby in Taranaki.’’

Gardiner was a staunch member of the Tukapa Rugby Club where he was ‘’well loved’’, Tukapa Rugby Club immediate past president Paul Meuli said.

Meuli, who knew Gardiner for at least 30 years, said Gardiner was a ‘’very affable, very quietly spoken man with a very wry sense of humour”.

‘’He was friends with not only a lot of his contemporaries at Tukapa, but he enjoyed a friendly rivalry with players locally that he came across. Ash was one of the first to buy his opponents a drink.’’

Gardiner was picked for the All Blacks by coach and fellow Taranaki man JJ Stewart for his scrummaging prowess and ability to run around the paddock, Meuli said.

‘’For a big guy [he was] deceptively fast.’’

After he hung up his boots, Gardiner was a committee member and coach at Tukapa, where he was a ‘’legend’’.

‘’He stepped down from the admin role in 2000 and after that became one of our band of loyal supporters," , Meuli said.

“He used to attend every game our senior A played. He also went on the bus trips to the away games.’’

Gardiner’s sons, brothers and father were all involved with the Tukapa club.

They are one of the legendary Tukapa families who have been around for generations, Meuli said.

A farewell for Gardiner will be held at Tukapa Rugby Club on Saturday, January 23, at 11am.