Obituary: Super Sid, a hero of ’70s rugby

In a famous photo, Sid Going runs clear of the East Glamorgan defence in a 1970 tour game on a...
In a famous photo, Sid Going runs clear of the East Glamorgan defence in a 1970 tour game on a foggy Cardiff Arms Park. PHOTO: PETER BUSH
All Black


Sid Going, one of the greatest match-winners rugby has known and an individual whose contribution to Northland sport was massive, died recently aged 80 at his home at Paihia surrounded by his loving family.

Super Sid, as he became known, was a rugby phenomenon. He was awarded an MBE for his contribution to the game, he was made a life member of the North Auckland Rugby Union while still wearing the No 9 rep jersey, he was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and his biography, published in 1978, sold more than 30,000 copies.

There was never a running or try-scoring rugby halfback to match him, or a better tackler. He taunted famous opponents like Wales’ Gareth Edwards, he kicked goals, he scored 33 tries for the All Blacks and he, along with his brothers Ken (who also became an All Black) and Brian, was responsible for introducing the famous triple scissors move that bamboozled countless opponents.

Going was a modest, humble individual who taunted every team he opposed. He became such a commanding figure opposing teams often spent weeks plotting tactics to contain him.

Yet anyone calling in on the Goings back in the 1950s before he rose to fame would surely never have identified Sidney Milton as a rugby superstar of the future.

He grew up on the family farm at Maromaku, and weighed just 3st 3lb (20.4kg) when he played his first game of rugby. From the age of 5 he helped out in the cow shed and fed hens and ducks before rushing off bare-footed to catch the school bus.

Every Sunday he would attend the Mormon chapel with his family, his great-grandfather Percy having joined the Mormon Church back in 1893 and reared his 12 children into the Mormon faith.

The Going family’s commitment to the Mormon faith meant adhering to the church’s principles — family prayer, no liquor, no smoking, no swearing, no sport on Sundays and high moral standards.

"Blinkin" was about the strongest word Going ever used, regardless of how frustrated he became, especially in a rugby context when opponents were trying to lessen his effectiveness by foul means.

Young male members of the Mormon Church were encouraged to both live by the church’s standards and serve as missionaries.

By the time of his 19th birthday in late 1962, shortly after he had made his representative rugby debut for North Auckland, Going committed to two years as a missionary, serving in Alberta, Canada. He loved his time there, terming it "a marvellous experience".

When he arrived back home in May 1965 he was blissfully ignorant of rugby developments and thought he would slide quietly back into the rugby scene.

Wrong. Everything happened at breakneck speed for the now 21-year-old.

After four outings for his Mid-Northern club he was chosen for Ted Griffin’s North Auckland squad, starting at halfback against Taranaki at Whangarei, a game the visitors won 11-8 thanks to Going giving away an intercept try.

Sid Going at a tribute event in honour of his brother Ken. PHOTO: NORTHERN ADVOCATE
Sid Going at a tribute event in honour of his brother Ken. PHOTO: NORTHERN ADVOCATE
If Going was not super on that occasion, he was during his next two outings which brought two immensely satisfying victories against the powerful, rich neighbour Auckland, 16-14 at Okara Park and, incredibly, 32-12 at Eden Park. He scored one try in the first game and two in the second, and hounded the daylights out of his renowned opponent, All Black Des Connor.

He was shortly thereafter named in the NZ Maori team to play the Springboks in Wellington.

Before that, the Springboks did battle with North Auckland, winning 14-3.

Centre John Gainsford scored a match-winning try for the Boks that day, after taking a reverse pass from his halfback who was running straight across-field, cutting back on a tangent to wrong-foot the North Auckland defence.

Going and Ken immediately added that move to their repertoire and, as a tribute, code-named it "Gainsford". It was a move they would use many times.

It was 1967 when Super Sid broke into the All Blacks, coming under the coaching influence of coach Fred Allen.

"I yawned once during one of Fred’s team talks, and copped both barrels," Going said. "Another time he really bawled out Bill Davis. The thing was Bill wasn’t even playing that day, but no-one was prepared to say anything."

Going branded Allen the best All Black coach he played under, and described a Fred Allen team talk as akin to "being positioned in front of a firing squad, not certain whether the guns are loaded or not".

With test incumbent Chris Laidlaw sidelined with injury, Going got his big opportunity in the inter-island match in Dunedin where he opposed Lyn Davis, the 1966 test reserve.

He was solid gold in that game, capping a standout performance by setting up Kel Tremain for the game’s final try, and it won him selection for the centenary test against the Wallabies in Wellington.

Match day was his 24th birthday, an event he kept secret from his All Black team-mates. He shrugged off a heavy cold to turn in a most accomplished performance, thanks to individuals like Colin Meads, Sam Strahan, Kel Tremain and Brian Lochore who gave him a dream service. The All Blacks won 29-9 and Going’s future at international level was assured.

His test debut in Wellington had come about because Laidlaw was injured. The first time Going was genuinely selected ahead of Laidlaw was for the French test in Paris on the tour of the UK and France that followed later in 1967.

Fred Allen told Going he needed him in the Paris test to unsettle the French players. It was one of the most brutal games he ever featured in. He saw Colin Meads get kicked in the head. 

"It was the only time I saw Pinetree seemingly down and out. But after treatment the great man got up and went on to play one of his finest tests." 

Laidlaw was reinstated at halfback for the Scottish test and was preferred for the first two home internationals against France in 1968, Going getting his opportunity in the third test at Eden Park after Laidlaw broke a finger.

And, man, did Super Sid grasp it. He scored two tries (within 30 minutes of kick-off) and nearly had four. As an All Black, he would never look back.

He would go on to play 86 times for the All Blacks over the next nine years, including 29 tests. Laidlaw interrupted his Oxford University studies to tour South Africa in 1970, but after that Super Sid was virtually unchallenged for the No 9 test jersey.

And of course he was one of the history-making quartet on the 1970 tour of South Africa, joining Bryan Williams, Buff Milner and Blair Furlong as the first non-white individuals to tour that country which operated under apartheid law.

After retiring as a player, he served as Northland’s rugby coaching officer from 1985 to 1991, he introduced rugby to Whangārei Girls’ High School and he coached the Northland secondary schools team.

Going is survived by his wife Colleen, children Milton, Tracey, Lea, Jared and Logan and 12 great grandchildren.

By Central Otago rugby writer Bob Howitt, who wrote Super Sid — The Story of a Great All Black.