Born: 1 January, 1942 – Auckland
Test record: 29 Tests (1961-67, 1970) – 12 tries (36 points)
Tours: 1961 tour of Great Britain and France, 1963 tour of Australia, 1965 tour of Great Britain and France, 1967 tour of Australia
A teenage star for the 1961 Kiwis in Britain and France, Roger Bailey carved out a magnificent legacy over the ensuring decade that eventually saw him inducted as one of the inaugural NZRL Legends of League in 1995 and named as a centre in the New Zealand Team of the Century in 2007.
The 1956 Schoolboy Kiwi was a bolter in a new-look New Zealand squad five years later, chosen alongside older brother and fellow centre, Gary. Nineteen-year-old Roger was an immediate revelation, scoring nine tries in his first nine games – including a hat-trick against Warrington – to snare a place in the first-Test line-up to take on Great Britain, where New Zealand carved out a stunning 29-11 win at Leeds.
Bailey played all six Tests abroad, scoring both of his team’s tries in the second-Test loss to Great Britain at Bradford and bagging another double in New Zealand’s decisive victory in the second Test against France at Perpignan. The breakout player of the tour, Bailey finished with a team-high 19 tries in 21 appearances.
The Ponsonby tyro was left out of the New Zealand side for the series opener against the 1962 Lions, but he after playing against the tourists for New Zealand Māori and a New Zealand XIII he was recalled to replace an injured Reece Griffiths ahead of the second Test. Bailey scored two tries in the Kiwis’ emphatic 27-8 victory at Carlaw Park and returned to the venue two days later with another double in Auckland’s 46-13 romp over the embattled tourists.
His place as a first-choice New Zealand selection secured, Bailey played in all three Tests in Australia among 10 appearance on the Kiwis’ 1963 trip across the Tasman. Bailey also featured in the unofficial international against South Africa that year and scored tries in two of the three Tests as New Zealand swept France 3-0 at home in 1964.
The 23-year-old’s tally swelled to 10 tries in 15 Tests during the 1965 home series against Australia, crossing for New Zealand’s only try as it squared the two-match rubber with a 7-5 victory at Carlaw Park.
Embarking on his second tour of Britain and France in 1965, Bailey was moved to five-eighth after the series opener against Great Britain – swapping positions with Paul Schultz – and stayed in the pivot role for four straight Tests. A return to centre for the third encounter with France netted Bailey’s ninth Test try. He crossed for eight tries in 24 matches on tour, including a brace in a defeat of English heavyweight Wigan.
Bailey was back in the centres for both Tests against the 1966 Lions and all three Tests in Australia among nine outings with the 1967 Kiwis. He had the honour of captaining New Zealand in the second and third Tests against Australia with tour skipper Bruce Castle sidelined.
One of the finest of all New Zealand Test careers looked set to come to a premature end when Bailey declared in 1968 he would not be available for selection unless players were paid higher expenses. Bailey’s stand against the NZRL resulted in the incumbent captain being overlooked for the 1968 World Cup in Australia.
Bailey was recalled for the 1969 home series opener against Australia but withdrew due to an injury suffered in club football. His return would have to wait until the series against the 1970 Lions, in which the vice-captain played stand-off in the first and third Tests and centre in the second as New Zealand crashed to a 3-0 cleansweep defeat.
Somewhat incongruously, the all-time great finished without a victory in his last 14 Test appearances, though he scored a try (his 12th in Tests) in his farewell outing for the Kiwis – a 33-16 loss to Great Britain at Carlaw Park.
But Bailey was a shock omission from New Zealand’s squad for the 1970 World Cup and the Kiwis’ 1971 tour of Britain and France.
Bailey’s then-record 37 tries in all matches for New Zealand has only been bettered by winger Phil Orchard, while just four players boast more than his 75 total appearances for the Kiwis.
Injury thwarted a proposed move to Sydney premiership club Eastern Suburbs in 1972, but there were several more highlights to come for Bailey locally. He led Ponsonby to a famous win over Sydney grand finalists Cronulla-Sutherland in 1973, returned from a stint at the Maritime club to score 20 tries for the Ponies in the 1976 Auckland competition as a 34-year-old.
Bailey had coaching stints with Glenfield and Glenora, while the 1962-69 provincial rep was named as one of six original Auckland Immortals in 1990.
Another Bailey brother, Bob, coached the Kiwis in 1990-91, while Roger’s son, David, represented the Junior Kiwis and Auckland, and played for the Warriors.