Frank Mulcare was one of the greatest players in one of New Zealand’s greatest rugby league eras, starring for the Kiwis in a record four consecutive Test match victories over Australia.
One of a cast of legendary West Coast products, he passed away at his home on his farm north of Whangarei on January 5. He was aged 90.
Coached by Cantabrian Jim Amos, the Kiwis won back-to-back series when beating the Kangaroos at Brisbane (by a remarkable score of 49-25) and Sydney (19-9) in 1952 and at Christchurch (25-5) and Wellington (12-11) in 1953.
From the Ngahere club, Frank made his international debut on the 1951-52 northern hemisphere tour, appearing in all six Tests against Great Britain, Wales and France, and was an automatic selection in 1952, 1953 and at home against the 1954 Lions.
Team-mates and opponents alike were in awe of the snowy-haired second-row forward who was equally aggressive in his attacking play – particularly his speed and eye for a gap – and as a ferocious defender.
In 1953 Frank enjoyed the rare distinction of touring his own country with the United States All Stars. The Americans arrived battered and bruised after a tough rugby league baptism in Australia and Frank was one of four Kiwis enlisted to bolster their ranks.
By 1955, aged only 26, he had stepped down from top-level football. A year later Frank agreed to tour Australia again after being promised the NZRL would grant him a post-tour transfer to play across the Tasman.
Frank featured in all three Tests on the 1956 tour, taking his total to 18, but was still refused a clearance to play in Australia, his wife’s homeland. So he retired for good and looked for other things to do.
In 1958 Frank joined the New Zealand Police and rose through the ranks to become the head police prosecutor in Canterbury.
In the mid-1970s he moved to Northland to become head of security for Bradbury Wilkinson, who produced bank notes for New Zealand and more than 30 other countries. Containers full of currency were safe when Frank was overseeing their transport.
Frank later found his happy place as a farmer and when interviewed by the New Zealand Herald in 2016 he was still actively moving his stock around at the age of 87.
Fittingly, when Frank Mulcare was inducted into the NZRL Legends of League, it was back in his home province of the West Coast in the Kiwis’ centenary year of 2007.