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New honour for oldest living Kiwi

New Zealand's oldest living Kiwi, the remarkable 97-year-old Ray Cranch, has been given a new honour in a lifetime decorated with accolades and achievements.

The Auckland Rugby League today announced its premier second will now become the Ray Cranch Cup in honour of the organisation’s oldest living life member. 

The Ray Cranch Cup will kick off when rugby league returns from its current suspension as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Cranch, one of the loveliest gentlemen around, is an avid Vodafone Warriors member and lover of the code, always keen to chat at length about all things football. Indeed, visitors are greeted by a Vodafone Warriors flag on the door of his room at Edmund Hillary Retirement Village.

He was overwhelmed when informed of his latest acknowledgement.

“You don’t start off your career expecting to be eulogised or idolised, you just try and do your best,” he said.

“I believe I’ve always done my best. Mt Albert and the Auckland Rugby League have been my life.

“Words fail me. I am everlastingly grateful for the honour the ARL have paid me."

ARL football competitions manager Pat Carthy said it was a fitting way to recognise Cranch’s legacy.  

“Ray epitomises the game’s values and he is highly respected by the entire rugby league community,” Carthy said. 

“I was thrilled when he gave us his permission to do this.”

Cranch missed six years of his rugby league playing career while serving in the New Zealand army in the Second World War.

He returned to the game after the war as a key player with his beloved Mount Albert, helping the club to clinch the Fox Memorial premiership in 1947 and making the Kiwis' marathon five-month tour of Britain and France (the tour started in mid-September and finished near the end of January with the Kiwis playing 39 matches).

He also served as captain of the Auckland representative side.

After finishing up as a player Cranch moved into administration, chairing the Auckland Schoolboys' Rugby League Board of Control before assuming roles with the ARL Senior Board of Control.

Among his other roles in the Auckland game, Cranch was secretary-manager of the Auckland Leagues Club for more than 20 years and a long-serving selector and manager of Auckland teams and New Zealand representative teams. He often filled gaps on judicial committees, too.

He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport in 2006 and is also a New Zealand Rugby League life member.