‘Bigsy’s’ colourful life retold in book

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There was a big rugby turnout to honour local legend John “Bigsy” McLay at a recent book launch at Hotel Ashburton.

McLay’s playing days and his colourful life have been recounted in a pictorial biography called In the Zone.

The 147-page book was compiled with the help of published author and family friend Val Taylor and 130 copies sold at the launch.

Those attending the event included a big rugby contingent from around the district, as well as the likes of Alex Wylie, Tane Norton, Tony Hill and former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

Jock Ross was the MC for the evening.

McLay clocked up more than 100 caps and scored 16 tries for Mid Canterbury over nine years and was part of the side that reigned supreme in the early 1980s.

Rugby has been a passion for McLay, who gave back to the game after his playing days and coached and mentored young players.

His colourful life has also included a stint as a volunteer teacher and farmer in the Solomons, running a mixed cropping, cattle, sheep and pig farm at Ruapuna and operating a shearing run.

John Aitken McLay, who was nicknamed “Bigsy” in his teens because of his large size 12 feet, these days suffers from Huntington’s Disease, but in his heyday was a rampaging No 8 who also wrestled for the South Island, played Aussie rules for the district and turned his hand to a number of sports.