The Woolf's are totally shattered. Yesterday we all lost a great friend, who unbeknown to most, influenced many New Zealanders, and in doing so probably saved numerous lives in the process. I'll get to that later! Hugh Burry was the absolute total package of a man. He was a pioneer of sports medicine (not just in New Zealand), and particularly with regard to the sport he loved, rugby. Hugh was a Dr, and a Professor, with the largest string of letters and medical qualifications I have ever seen. We got to know him as my sisters rheumatologist. In that role he changed all our lives, and for the better. My sister was crippled with Arthritis as a kid, and after dealing with a string of Drs, many of who did not have great interpersonal skills, she found Hugh. He was like a breath of fresh air, positive, realistic, and who treated Deb like a person, and not just like a technical exercise. He changed our while families outlook on Debs future, and also set to empower us all to believe she could lead a normal life, and without arthritis affecting her too much. I can tell you Deb would not be the dangerously effervescent, intelligent, spirited, and glowing personality she now is, without Hughs help.
That brings me back to how Hugh probably saved so many lives. Hugh was an All Black. I reckon I have met a few All Blacks in my time. If I was choosing a team of All Blacks, who not only played great rugby, but were also superb role models, representing the epitome of what an All Black should be, and well after after their playing days, Hugh would be one of the first, in the fifteen chosen. Another great 1960's All Black role model Mick Bremner, told me recently that rugby should be so grateful to Hugh Burry, as he was the one person who stood up and highlighted safety issues with rugby. He did so when it wasnt fashionable to query safety in rugby ! When the IRB did not listen to what he was advocating, Hugh bravely had papers published in the British Medical Journal. His concerns were largely based around safety in scrums. The acceptance of Hugh's medical research, and publicity, pressured the IRB to make changes. Hugh's courage undoubtedly saved many lives as result. Safety in scrums gave rugby a different perception too, and allowed many Mothers and Fathers to have greater faith in their kids playing rugby.
Hugh had a great influence in the way rugby is played around the world. He was not liked at times for his stance, but he was tremendously courageous, and persistent in getting his safety concerns to the fore, and over a lengthy period.
In New Zealand, those outside of rugby, and medicine, may not have heard of Hugh Burry, but I can tell you he did not seek the media eye, he was humble , modest, kind and caring, and boy has he made an impact on a truckload of people. Hugh Burry was an amazing New Zealander. Without too much effort, I could write pages on his attributes, and achievements. Hugh added to his list of accolades three weeks ago, when he agreed to be a model for a photographic lighting workshop I held in Hanmer. ( Did I mention that he was a great sport too!). Hugh was on fire, at his humorous best, and playing his French Horn, which he loved, and was also very adept at. Best of all Hugh was our wonderful Barbara's husband, and our great friend. We are all going to miss him tremendously. I will especially miss the intellectual debate and ribbing as to “which really is the beautiful game?” To Barbara, and all the Burry family our love and prayers are with you at this sad time.