Former Kiwi captain Ruben Wiki was among seven rugby league greats presented with golden caps at the Rugby League International Federation’s Golden Boot awards dinner in Leeds last night.
The presentation of golden caps for players who appeared in 50 or more Tests was a feature of the night which saw England winger Tommy Makinson win the men’s Golden Boot while Australian Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly was awarded the inaugural women’s Golden Boot.
When rugby league legend Wiki retired from international football in 2006, he had played a world record 55 Tests, a mark which stood until Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer (59) overtook him. Cameron Smith ended his representative career this year with a total of 56 Tests.
Wiki’s golden cap was collected on his behalf by his former Kiwi team-mate Motu Tony, who is in England with the touring New Zealand team.
Players awarded golden caps were:
Jim Sullivan (1921-1934) 54 internationals for Wales, England and Great Britain
Mick Sullivan (1954-1962) 50 internationals for England and Great Britain
Ruben Wiki (1994-2006) 55 internationals for New Zealand
Adrian Morley (1996-2012) 53 internationals for England and Great Britain
Darren Lockyer (1997-2011) 59 internationals for Australia
Petero Civoniceva (2001-2014) 51 internationals for Australia and Fiji
Cameron Smith (2006-2017) 56 internationals for Australia
As well as Tony, the Kiwis’ representatives at last night’s dinner included Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire, captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – who was on the short list of four for the Golden Boot – former Kiwi Daryl Halligan, New Zealand Rugby League chairman Reon Edwards and CEO Greg Peters.
Watene-Zelezniak has had an outstanding year at international level, performing impressively against England in Denver, in the one-off Test against Australia last month and in each of the first two matches of the current series against England.
Kiwi Ferns centre Honey Hireme was on the short list for the women’s Golden Boot.
Three greats were inducted into England’s Rugby League Hall of Fame – Wakefield’s Derek Turner, Hull’s Johnny Whiteley and Andy Gregory, whose club career included stints with Widnes, Warrington and Wigan.
As well as Morley, Whiteley, Gregory the dinner at the Centerary Pavilion was attended by a cast of rugby league greats, among them the incomparable Billy Boston – now 84 – Garry Schofield, Mal Reilly and Neil Fox while there was also a table including former Great Britain internationals George Nicholls, Jimmy Thompson, Brian Lockwood, Alan Smith and Keith Bridges.