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Rugby

Enigmatic All Blacks prop Murdoch dies aged 74

Keith Murdoch disappeared into obscurity in rural Australia, becoming an enigma in rugby-mad New Zealand

Former All Blacks prop Keith Murdoch, who was sent home in disgrace from the team’s tour of Britain in 1972 for punching a security guard in Cardiff, has died – New Zealand Rugby said on Friday.

He was 74.

“New Zealand Rugby mourns the loss of former All Black Keith Murdoch,” NZR said on their Twitter page.

Murdoch, who played 27 matches for the All Blacks, including three Tests, actually scored a try in his final match, a 19-16 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

Murdoch was celebrating the victory when he was refused entry to the Angel Hotel in central Cardiff and knocked the security guard down.

Team manager Ernie Todd initially disciplined Murdoch but two days later sent him home.

Players on the tour believe the British media’s reporting of the incident and Todd’s health, he was suffering from cancer, had been factors in him changing his initial decision.

Murdoch, however, did not return to New Zealand as scheduled, having got off the plane en route and disappeared into obscurity in rural Australia, becoming an enigma in rugby-mad New Zealand.

The tighthead prop was tracked to an oil drilling operation near Perth by famed New Zealand rugby journalist T.P. McLean in the late 1970s and confronted by a spanner-wielding Murdoch, who advised him to “get back on the bus”.

“I got back on the bus,” McLean wrote at the time.

He was found again in rural Queensland in the 1990s by journalist Margot McRae, but declined to be interviewed on camera. McRae wrote a play about the encounter.

Murdoch was last seen in public in 2001 when he appeared as a witness at a coronial inquest in the Northern Territory over the death of a young Aboriginal man who had been caught breaking into Murdoch’s home.

Murdoch was never named as a suspect, but said little during the inquest and then disappeared from public sight again