Born: 3 August, 1963 – Mangakino
Test record: 7 Tests (1991, 1993) – 25 goals (50 points)
Former All Black Frano Botica’s multi-faceted talents were only utilised in seven Tests for the Kiwis and his stint as a 1995 Auckland Warriors original was ruined by injury, but the utility-back nevertheless left an enormous rugby league legacy as a pointscoring phenomenon for British heavyweight Wigan.
Botica played provincial rugby union for fledgling North Harbour before getting the call-up for the fabled ‘Baby Blacks’ that played against touring France in 1986. He played seven Tests among 27 games for New Zealand – scoring a total of 123 points – but the great Grant Fox stood in his way for a regular crack in his preferred No.10 jersey at Test level.
The 26-year-old was lured to rugby league (as were another seven of the All Blacks’ 1989 squad that toured Canada and Britain at various intervals) as part of the 1990 exodus of union stars, joining Wigan. Predominantly used as a winger with occasional appearances at five-eighth or fullback during his early years in league, Botica created history for bringing up 1,000 points quicker than any player in the history of the game in Britain.
Botica represented New Zealand Māori (an honour he also earned in union) against France in 1991 and kicked eight goals on Test debut at fullback in a 60-6 demolition of the same team. He slotted another six goals in the 32-10 second-Test win.
With a dispute between Manly and NZRL rendering Matthew Ridge unavailable, Botica was at fullback for all three Tests of the subsequent series in Australia – booting four goals in the Kiwis’ famous 24-8 upset of the green-and-golds in the opener in Melbourne.
Botica would only played twice more for New Zealand, lining up on the wing for the second and third Tests of the 1993 series in Great Britain. He added five goals as the Kiwis went down heavily in both games to sink to a 3-0 whitewash defeat.
The sharpshooter amassed a club-record 423 points for all-conquering Wigan in the 1992-93 season and featured in his fifth straight Challenge Cup victory in 1995, by which stage he was a near-permanent fixture in the halves.
Reuniting with ex-Wigan coach John Monie, Botica landed at the Auckland Warriors at the conclusion of the British season midway through 1995. He slotted 19 goals in five games for the high-profile new club but a shocking leg injury cut his campaign short.
Botica left the Warriors prematurely, instead playing for Castleford in the 1996 Super League season. He returned to rugby union with stints in Wales and France, while he returned to North Harbour (where he was still coming off the bench in the NPC as a 38-year-old) and turned out for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, while he also represented Croatia in World Cup qualifying matches.