As the 2015 Kiwis prepare for this weekend’s Test series decider against England, it’s a poignant time to remember former New Zealand internationals who have passed away over the last 12 months.
BOB NEILSON | Kiwi #348 | Died: October 14, 2014 (aged 91)
Kiwi career: 1952-1953, 3 Tests, 2 tries
Reefton-born Neilson, a West Coast second rower, toured Australia in 1952 but didn’t appear in the Test series as the Kiwis stunned the Australians 2-1. However, he appeared in all three Tests in the 1953 series against the Kangaroos in New Zealand, scoring the match-winning and series-clinching try in a 12-11 victory in the second Test in Wellington.
LEN JORDAN | Kiwi #287 | Died: November 6, 2014 (aged 94)
Kiwi career: 1946-1949, 8 Tests, 1 try
Auckland centre Jordan made his Test debut in the Kiwis’ 13-8 victory in a one-off international against Great Britain at Carlaw Park in 1946, New Zealand’s first Test outing following the Second World War. He then made the Kiwis’ long 35-match 1947-1948 tour of Britain and France, appearing in all six Tests. His son Chris was a Kiwi in 1977-1978.
JOHN SPARNON | Kiwi #419 | Died: November 15, 2014 (aged 71)
Kiwi career: 1963, 0 Tests
A centre from Auckland’s Richmond club, Sparnon scored two tries in the curtain-raiser to the main Kiwi trial to clinch selection for the Kiwis’ 1963 tour to Australia. An understudy to the experienced Test players, he wasn’t selected for any of the internationals and wasn't chosen for the Kiwis again. He was in the Auckland side which beat Australia 15-14 in 1969.
KEITH ROBERTS | Kiwi #366 | Died: March 11, 2015 (aged 83)
Kiwi career: 1955-1960, 13 Tests, 3 tries
Out of the Marist club in Christchurch, Roberts, who switched from rugby union to rugby league, made his Test debut on the Kiwis’ 1955-1956 tour of Britain and France, coming into the side in the second match of the series against the Great Britain side. A scrumhalf who weighed no more than 64kg, he devoted much of his life to the game, coaching Canterbury and also serving as a long-time national selector.
NEVILLE DENTON | Kiwi #359 | Died: March 27, 2015 (aged 80)
Kiwi career: 1954-1963, 13 Tests, 5 tries, 1 goal
An out-and-out speedster, Denton made the first of his 13 Test appearances at the 1954 World Cup but injury severely hampered his international career. Playing club football for Marist and also Northern Districts, he later coached at club level – including the Mangere East Hawks – and also provincial level, guiding Auckland to victory over Australia in 1971.
BILL SCHULTZ | Kiwi #394 | Died: April 18, 2015 (aged 76)
Kiwi career: 1959-1964, 4 Tests, 1 try
Auckland hooker Schultz was first selected for the Kiwis for their 1959 tour to Australia but wasn’t used in the Test side. He was recalled six years later alongside younger brother Paul for the 1965 tour of Britain and France when he played his four Tests. Not chosen for the Kiwis again he later played for Eastern Suburbs in the Sydney premiership.
REX PERCY | Kiwi #368 | Died: May 2, 2015 (aged 81)
Kiwi career: 1955-1959, 9 Tests, 5 tries, 2 goals
A prolific try-scorer, Auckland loose forward Rex Percy made his Test debut during the Kiwis’ 1955-1956 tour of Britain and France. In a total of 39 appearances for the Kiwis he scored an astonishing 31 tries including five in his nine Tests. Coming from a rugby union background, he later played for the Balmain Tigers in the Sydney premiership.
JOHN LASHER | Kiwi #376 | Died: June 17, 2015
Kiwi career: 1956, 0 Tests
Richmond hooker Lasher was selected for the Kiwis’ tour to Australia in 1956 but didn’t make the Test side. While he wasn’t chosen for the Kiwis again he later featured in Auckland’s 46-13 crushing of Great Britain in 1962. He was named in Richmond’s team of the century and had a distinguished international yachting career as a noted helmsman.
JIMMY EDWARDS | Kiwi #331 | Died: July 30, 2015
Kiwi career: 1951-1954, 17 Tests, 8 tries
The Marist wing made his Test debut against Wales on the 1951-1952 tour of Britain and France, scored two tries in his second international (the third Test against Great Britain) and went on to establish himself as a quality finisher. His last 17 Test appearances were consecutive; he finished with 20 tries in a total of 45 matches for the Kiwis.
Two New Zealand international referees also passed away over the past 12 months.
Peter Yaxley, made a life member of the Canterbury Rugby League in 1981, died on March 3, aged 86.
Roland (Roly) Avery, who refereed Tests between the late 1940s and the early 1960s, passed away in Huntly on May 21, aged 87.