‘The Beast’ moniker illustrated the powerful impact Kevin Iro had as a blockbusting centre or winger in the Kiwi jersey for more than a decade, and on the British and Australian club scenes for 15 seasons.


The Glen Innes junior was an automatic selection for New Zealand when available from his debut as a teenager in 1987 until his last appearance in 1998, by which time he had played 34 Tests and scored 16 tries – fourth and equal-second in Kiwis history at that stage.


A Junior Kiwi in 1986, the 19-year-old announced himself on the international stage with 20 points (three tries, four goals) – a world record for a player on Test debut – against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby before starring in New Zealand’s stunning Lang Park upset of Australia.


Iro’s 1988 New Zealand player of the year season included another hat-trick against the Kumuls at Carlaw Park, an appearance for Rest of the World against Australia and a try in the Kiwis’ World Cup final loss to Australia at Eden Park. He played in seven of the Kiwis’ eight Test matches in 1989.


A devastating ball-runner to rank alongside anyone in world rugby league and blessed with superb skill and natural instincts, Iro was lured to Wigan (along with older brother Tony, who earned his maiden Kiwis call-up the following season) by Graham Lowe in late-1987.



He won four straight Challenge Cup finals with the club, scoring two tries in each of his first three victorious trips to Wembley.


Iro joined Lowe again at Manly in 1991-92 before returning to England with Leeds and featuring in a pair of Wembley losses to his former club Wigan during a five-season stay.


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Despite moving into the veteran class, the twilight years of Iro’s Kiwis tenure were laced with sizzling highlights.


He scored a sensational try to send the 1995 World Cup semi-final against Australia into extra-time (the Kiwis ultimately went down 30-20).


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Iro then featured in a drought-breaking trans-Tasman victory in 1997 and came off the bench to score two barnstorming tries in the Kiwis’ iconic defeat of the Kangaroos in 1998, briefly co-holding the New Zealand record for most Test tries.


The game-breaker farewelled the black-and-white jersey in a historic series win in Britain.


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After one-season stints with Hunter Mariners (1997) and Auckland Warriors (1998), Iro’s career wound down with four seasons at St Helens that garnered two Super League grand final triumphs and another Challenge Cup final victory.


All told, he scored a phenomenal 175 tries in 344 club matches in England and Australia.


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“Kevin would never let you down at Test level, he’d go out and win you a Test against Australia. If he was fit and available, you’d never leave him out,” praises Frank Endacott, who coached Iro in the Kiwis from 1995-98, and at the Warriors in 1998.


“He’s got a huge name in England, along with his brother Tony, they just knew how to win big games. And the bigger the game, the better Kevin went.


“When the pressure was on up against the big guns, that’s when Kevin came out to play. All class.”


Iro captained Cooks Islands’ 2000 World Cup campaign and later coached the national side, while he also represented Cook Islands at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in rugby sevens.



Clubs: Glen Innes Falcons, Mount Albert Lions, Wigan, Manly Sea Eagles, Leeds, Hunter Mariners, Auckland Warriors, St Helens

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand representative:


1987  1 Test in Papua New Guinea

1987  1 Test in Australia

1988  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1988  1 Test v Great Britain

1988  1 Test v Australia (World Cup final)

1989  3 Tests v Australia

1989  3 Tests in Great Britain

1989  1 Test in France

1990  3 Tests v Great Britain

1991  2 Tests in Australia

1992  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1992  2 Tests v Great Britain

1993  3 Tests in Great Britain

1993  1 Test in Great Britain

1995  3 Tests at World Cup (England)

1997  1 Test v Australia

1998  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests in Great Britain


Total Test Appearances: 34 matches – 16 tries, 7 goals (78 points)

Total Matches Played: 40 matches – 20 tries, 10 goals (100 points)




New Zealand player of the year (1988)

Rest of the World (1988)

Captained Cook Islands at World Cup (2000)

Coached Cook Islands (2006)