Born: 18 February, 1932
Died: 23 August, 2013 – Wagga Wagga, NSW
Test record: 20 Tests (1955-60) – 5 tries (20 points)
Tours: 1955-56 tour of Great Britain and France, 1956 tour of Australia, 1957 World Cup, 1959 tour of Australia, 1960 World Cup
Māori powerhouse Henry Maxwell was a mainstay in the New Zealand front-row from 1955-60, racking up 20 Test appearances, touring overseas twice with the Kiwis and competing at two World Cups.
A stalwart for Point Chevalier Pirates who later played for Western United, Maxwell represented New Zealand Māori against Great Britain in 1954 and France in 1955, and Auckland against the latter. His initial Kiwis call-up came as a late replacement for the Kiwis’ 1955-56 tour of Britain and France, filling the breach left by unavailable engine-room anchor Cliff Johnson.
The 23-year-old seized the opportunity in outstanding style, playing all six Test matches among 27 appearances on tour. Though he scored just once in 21 minor matches, Maxwell was a scoresheet regular in the Tests. He notched a try on Test debut against Great Britain, dotted down again in New Zealand’s dead-rubber win at Leeds and bagged a double as the tourist won the second Test against France at Lyon. The Kiwis lost both series 2-1 but Maxwell had cemented an impressive reputation on the international stage.
Maxwell retained his spot for all three Tests on the Kiwis’ 1956 tour of Australia, with Johnson returning to the New Zealand pack in the second-row. He played six other matches and scored tries against Newcastle and North Queensland rep teams. Maxwell also captained that year’s New Zealand Māori tour of Australia.
Featuring in all three of New Zealand’s 1957 World Cup matches and the encounter with Britain-France (which was granted Test status by the NZRL), Maxwell teamed up with Johnson in the Rest of the World front-row for the post-tournament clash with Australia at the SCG.
Elevated to the Auckland captaincy in 1958, Maxwell also skippered New Zealand Māori against the Lions that year and played in both Tests of the drawn series. He extended his run of consecutive of Test appearances since his debut to 16 with a tryscoring effort in a 9-8 loss to Australia in Sydney in 1959, but a knee injury suffered in that match ended the 110kg steamroller’s tour.
The veteran returned to play both Tests of the 2-0 home series win over France in 1960 and had international swansong at the World Cup later that year, turning out in the losses to Great Britain and Australia.
Maxwell subsequently took up a captain-coach role with Batlow in southwestern NSW. The all-time great Kiwi and legend of Māori rugby league settled in Australia and passed away in the Riverina centre of Wagga Wagga in 2013, aged 81.