24 June 2024

Congratulations to Jeff Whittaker and Kevin Bailey who have both been awarded New Zealand Rugby League Life Membership at the 2024 Annual General Meeting which took place at NZRL headquarters on Saturday evening.

Jeff Whittaker received Canterbury Rugby League life membership in 2018 after over 20 years of playing, coaching, selecting, and tireless work for the game in the District.

Whittaker played rugby league for 22 years, progressing through the junior grades and representing Canterbury, South Island and Rest of New Zealand at the age-group level.

The end of Whittaker’s playing days only ramped up his involvement in rugby league. After coaching a string of Halswell Hornets junior teams, he was a coach and selector for countless Canterbury and New Zealand age-group rep teams from 1992 until only a few years ago.

His first national appointment was as New Zealand 16s selector and coach in 1996, while he took the NZ Secondary Schools team to Australia in 2000 and guided the NZ 16s to a win over Samoa in 2016.

Whittaker was also a long-serving Canterbury Bulls selector and a tireless administrator for Halswell and Canterbury.

The CRL Coaching and Development Manager from 1997-2003, Whittaker was Halswell’s president from 2004-11 – a tenure that included the NZRL Grassroots Club of the Year honour and the CRL Club President of the Year award in 2010.

In 2022 Whittaker alongside other rugby league mainstays was key in the building and opening of the new Halswell Hornets rugby league club headquarters.

Whittaker’s other accolades include earning the Sport Canterbury Outstanding Exponent of Fair Play in 1997 and Outstanding Winter Sports Administrator in ’98.

Kevin Bailey has been a dedicated player, referee, administrator, and influential figure in rugby league for over 72 years.

His journey began at the age of six in Auckland with the Marist Saints before later joining Mt. Albert at 15, excelling as an open-side prop.

His passion for rugby league led him to the Glenora Bears as well as the New Lynn stags where he not only played but also made significant contributions as a Committee Member, leaving a lasting impact on the club.

Upon retiring from playing, Kevin commenced his officiating career. Over many years he showed invaluable dedication to Auckland Rugby League and the Auckland Rugby League Referees Association, earning the honour of Life Membership for his great contributions.

In 1994, Kevin became one of the first New Zealand Rugby League employees as the National Referees Manager which saw him elevate officiating standards. His mentorship was crucial in developing, growing, and retaining referees.

As his career progressed Kevin was instrumental in the creation and administration of numerous competitions including the Bartercard Cup, the Pacific Cup, and the NZ Secondary Schools Rugby League Competition.

NZRL recognised Kevin’s outstanding contributions by awarding him the Distinguished Service Award in 2014.

Over the years Kevin served on the ARL Appeals Panel, playing a key role in resolving disputes fairly within the league. As the ARL Judicial Chair, Kevin has upheld the highest standards of integrity, overseeing disciplinary matters with impartiality.

Kevin is a current member of the NZRL Museum Committee and has played a crucial role in safeguarding our rich history, ensuring that our heritage remains preserved for generations to come.

New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters says, “Congratulations to both Jeff and Kevin on earning Life Membership with NZRL. This is testament to all their incredible work and dedication to our game over many years, thank you Jeff and Kevin for your service and congratulations again.”