Reuben Wiki

Malcolm Boyle’s life was remembered and celebrated yesterday when the former Vodafone Warriors owner and passionate rugby league supporter was farewelled at St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland.

The Vodafone Warriors will also pay tribute to him before their season-opening NRL clash against Newcastle at Mount Smart Stadium today.

Highly respected as a guru in New Zealand’s public relations industry, Boyle passed away on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 66.

He was a true rugby league devotee having played the game extensively, been involved in it and followed it for almost his entire life.

Raised in blue collar surroundings in Glen Innes, he was educated at Tamaki College and went on to begin a career in journalism with the now-defunct Auckland Star where he worked as a general news, sports and court reporter.

He moved to Sydney to further his journalism career and also continued to play rugby league with Clovelly before returning to the Auckland Star.

He left the paper in the mid-1970s to work for the Rothmans Sports Foundation as well as Air New Zealand’s public affairs department and Allan Fenwick before going on to form Baldwin Boyle Group in 1981, a PR agency which still bears his name today.

His rugby league career continued with Marist, Howick and Eastern United where he had a reputation as a fearless prop or second rower who never took a backward step. He was also capable of kicking goals in the old-fashioned toe poke style.

At Marist he played at premier level in a side which included Kiwi great Tony Kriletich as a player-coach as well as the likes of Fred Schuster, Eddie Wulf and Pesa Sua. At Howick and Eastern he was in sides coached by former Kiwis Eddie (Bunna) Moore and Murray Eade.

In the PR world, Boyle mixed readily and comfortably with the country’s politicians and business leaders as well as leading sports chiefs. He was a man with a charismatic magnetism, exceptionally witty, extremely quick-witted and always well read (he had a voracious appetite for reading newspapers). His clients included any number of major corporates including Air New Zealand, BNZ, Singapore Airlines, the New Zealand Meat Board and more.

After a period as managing director at Porter Novelli, he linked with colleague Cedric Allan to form Allan Boyle and finally Star PR.

Away from his business interests, family, rugby league and his mates were Boyle’s core passions. He travelled countless times to take in the grand final in Sydney or made trips to watch the Kiwis play in New Zealand and Australia including the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.

His love of the game manifested itself in Boyle joining forces with his close friend Graham Lowe to acquire the Auckland Warriors when the Auckland Rugby League decided to end its link as the founding owner of the NRL franchise.

At the time the club was in financial turmoil and Boyle and Lowe were challenged to find a partner. Eventually they teamed up with Tainui in what would prove to be an unholy alliance which saw the club plunged into crisis by the end of the 2000 season.

However, had Boyle and Lowe not succeeded in securing Tainui’s investment the Vodafone Warriors almost certainly wouldn’t still be in existence today.

It was during his short tenure as an owner that Boyle was involved in signing Vodafone as a major sponsor, a partnership which would result in the birth of the Vodafone Warriors and a commercial partnership which has now endured into its 19th season this year.

Boyle and Lowe were ousted by Tainui in another of the messy periods in the club’s history but Boyle never lost his love for the Vodafone Warriors.

He was later the founding chairman of the Auckland Lions, who entered the then-New South Wales Premier League in 2007, later becoming the Auckland Vulcans before the Vodafone Warriors assumed control of the team in what is now known as the Intrust Super Premiership.

Boyle was appointed manager of the All Golds who played the Northern Union in Warrington in 2007, a team coached by Wayne Bennett and including then Vodafone Warriors captain Steve Price as a guest player alongside Kiwi greats Ruben Wiki, Stacey Jones, Ali Lauitiiti and Nigel Vagana. Boyle also organised a visit to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace at the start of the tour, a memorable event which finished with Wiki leading a rousing haka inside the palace itself.

As a long-time Vodafone Warriors member, Boyle was a regular spectator in the upper East Stand where he and his mates would sit and mostly barrack for their team or debate the merits of the performances.

Initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he was later found to be afflicted by Lewy Body Dementia. While wheelchair bound in more recent times, he still attended some Vodafone Warriors games last year.

For those who knew him closely, he was the best mate ever. Malcolm Boyle - gone but never to be forgotten.

His passing makes for a sombre start to the Vodafone Warriors’ 2017 season along with the deaths this week of two other rugby league identities, Hazel McGregor, wife of the late ex-Kiwi and former New Zealand Rugby League president Ron McGregor, and Ron Holmes, a former Glenora Bears chairman and coach. Hazel McGregor's funeral was also scheduled for today while Ron Holmes was farewelled yesterday.