The New Zealand Rugby League mourns the passing of Richard Bolton, a player, coach, manager and administrator who left an indelible mark on on rugby league in New Zealand.

Born on June 4, 1943, Bolton carved out a strong career as a loose forward, representing Auckland and Mount Albert clubs. His playing highlight was undoubtedly his selection for the 1972 tour of Australia, where he earned his sole New Zealand Test cap as Kiwi #499. Despite missing out on World Cup selection that year, Bolton contributed significantly to Māori Rugby League. He represented them as a player in 1972 and later captained the side to victory in the inaugural Pacific Cup in 1986. He repeated this feat in 1988 and served as a trainer for the Māori team in 1990.

Bolton’s leadership extended beyond the playing field. He served on the NZMRL board and coached Waikato from 1987 to 88. His dedication to the sport’s development shone through his roles as manager of the Howie Tamati-coached Kiwis from 1992 to 93 and the 2005 Junior Kiwis. Notably, he was pivotal in establishing the National Secondary Schools competition while serving as the NZRL’s National Development Officer.

Bolton’s commitment to Auckland Rugby League as deputy chairman further cemented his legacy as a tireless administrator. In 2013, he was awarded an NZRL Life Membership, a fitting tribute to his lifelong service to the game.

The New Zealand Rugby League extends its deepest condolences to Richard Bolton’s family and friends. He will be remembered as a versatile player, a leader, and a passionate contributor who helped shape the sport not only on the field but also from the sidelines.

Richard Bolton, former New Zealand rugby league player and coach. 1995. Copyright photo:

By Will Evans

The New Zealand Rugby League is mourning the loss of champion goalkicking forward John Bond, a seven-Test Kiwi of the 1950s whose club career spanned an incredible 22 years.

Bond, 92, passed away on Sunday, March 10.

A highly respected prop or second-rower for Papanui, Marist, Kaiapoi, Canterbury, South Island and New Zealand, ‘Bondy’ became Kiwi #351 during a memorable era for the national team.

Bond’s rugby league journey began as a 15-year-old. Struggling to get a game of union at Belfast, Bond’s father – Roy, a speedy former Marist winger who represented Canterbury and South Island in 1930 – told him he was playing the wrong game and encouraged him to sign up with Papanui.

That was 1947, and he survived a baptism of fire in the rugged senior club competition – including copping a headbutt from the revered Pat Smith. Just four years later Bond earned his provincial spurs for Canterbury and in 1953 he received a maiden Kiwis call-up.

Bond, just 21, was drafted into the New Zealand line-up at prop for fellow Cantabrian Lory Blanchard, who broke a collarbone playing for Linwood, for the series-opening Test against Australia in Christchurch.

The hosts romped to a 25-5 win over an Australian side boasting such luminaries as Brian Carlson, Harry Wells, Keith Holman, Roy Bull, Ken Kearney, Brian Davies and captain-coach Clive Churchill – though future Immortal Churchill was the only player Bond had heard of. The tyro gave an excellent account of himself in the front-row and displayed his goalkicking talents with a goal from the sideline in the latter stages.

“During the match I remember (captain) Jimmy Haig saying to me, ‘I’ll boot your arse you lazy bugger’, and I thought I was slogging my guts out!” Bond recounted for The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League.

“Then after the game Jimmy came up and said, ‘You went a good one, young Jack’. He rewarded me by giving me that shot at goal, even if it was right from the sideline.”

Bond reveals he could easily have debuted for his country on the tour of Australia a year earlier after trialling strongly…but his penchant for a good time during his younger days delayed his progression.

In a classic ‘boys will be boys’ yarn, Bond and some Papanui teammates went to a dance in Stillwater while on an away trip to the West Coast with the Canterbury side. Bond arrived back at the team accommodation at 6am and met long-serving Canterbury coach Jim Amos on the stairs. Amos, who took over as coach of the Kiwis in 1952, was on his way to church.

“That was the reason I didn’t get chosen in ’52 – he didn’t tell me that until ’54 when we went to the World Cup,” Bond recalled in 2018 without a hint of hard feelings. “He said, ‘I’ve got to vouch for every guy’s character in this team’.”

But Bond won Amos over eventually, playing all but one of his Tests for New Zealand under his coaching.

Bond held his front-row spot for the remainder of New Zealand’s 2-1 series win over the Australian tourists in ’53, while he scored his only Test try in the following year’s series opener against Great Britain at Carlaw Park after starting in the second-row.

Later in 1954 he was part of the New Zealand squad for the inaugural World Cup in France, historic also for being the Kiwis’ first Northern Hemisphere air voyage. New Zealand played France in the tournament opener in Paris and, with legendary goalkicker Des White unavailable for the World Cup, Bond booted two goals in a 22-13 loss. He also played in the 26-6 defeat to Great Britain in Bordeaux, before slotting three goals in New Zealand’s non-Test exhibition clash with Australia in Los Angeles enroute home.

Bond was on the plane again for the Kiwis’ 1955-56 tour of Britain and France, tallying three tries from nine appearances and playing the last of his seven Tests in the 28-13 dead-rubber victory over Great Britain at Leeds.


Three 1954 Kiwis forwards on tour. Ginger McLennan (L), John Yates and John Bond.


After being out of favour with coach Harold Tetley throughout the tour, Bond said his standout performance in Great Britain’s first-ever loss at the famed Headingley ground was the highlight of his Kiwis tenure.

Bond toured Australia with the Kiwis in 1956, playing six games – including a two-try performance against Wide Bay – without being able to force his way into the Test line-up.

He represented South Island until 1956 and helped Papanui to its first championship in 1957, before playing hooker for Canterbury against Great Britain in 1958 and hanging up the boots at the end of that season. But Bond rescinded his retirement in 1962 to play for Marist then took on a player-coach role with fledgling Kaiapoi in 1965.

Bond, a wool presser at the freezing works during his playing days, permanently called time on his club career in 1969.

In 2017 he was invited to speak to the Kiwis squad in the lead-up to their clash with Scotland in Christchurch, imparting some basic-but-vital knowledge on the players following along the World Cup trail he helped blaze 63 years earlier in France.

“I said to them, ‘This game’s simple, all you’ve got do is use this – I pointed to my head – and these, and I showed them my hands’.”

NEW ZEALAND (1953-55)
7 Tests – 1 try, 2 goals (7 points)
15 tour matches – 4 tries, 3 goals (18 points)
-1954 World Cup tour
-1955-56 Kiwis tour of Great Britain and France
-1956 Kiwis tour of Australia

23 August 2021as seen on

Rugby league buffs regard former Kiwis standoff Gary Woollard – who died last Sunday aged 79 – as a great example of how perseverance can pay off.

Woollard first toured Australia with the Kiwis as a 20-year-old Wellington scrumhalf in 1963, without playing a test.

A radio technician with the Civil Aviation service, young Woollard had trialled as a standoff, but was switched to scrumhalf for the second half, according to Evening Post archives.

He made enough of an impression to be named as the back-up to test scrumhalf Bill Snowden for the trip across the Tasman.

Woollard had started his career as a scrumhalf but moved out to standoff. He was in his third senior representative season and was Wellington’s vice-captain when named for his first tour.

After backing up Snowden in 1963, Woollard was also restricted to non-test matches on his next tour, across the Tasman in 1967, with Bob Irvine, Doug Ellwood, Paul Schultz and Roger Tait variously employed in the halves across the three tests.

But, in 1969 – six years after first fitted for a Kiwis blazer – Woollard made his test bow against the Kangaroos at Carlaw Park.

By then specialising at standoff, he played outside scrumhalf Graeme Cooksley in the Kiwi’s 18-14 win over a side containing Australian greats John Sattler, Ron Coote and Graeme Langlands.

New Zealand rugby league historian John Coffey noted that Woollard – by then playing his club football in Auckland – “persevered and broke through for one test against Australia in 1969 and the 1970 World Cup, the tournament coach Lory Blanchard used as his model for the big year of 1971”.

Woollard partnered Cooksley in the halves in the Kiwis’ 1970 World Cup matches in Europe against Australia, France and Great Britain and a subsequent test defeat to France in Carcassonne.

Blanchard retained Woollard for the Kiwis’ convincing 24-3 win over Australia in Auckland in 1971, pairing him with Ken Stirling.

That duo were also aboard for the Kiwis’ successful 1971 tour of Europe where they won test series against Great Britain (2-1) and France (2-0).

Woollard was not in the lineup for the 18-13 first test win over Great Britain at Salford, with a teenage Dennis Williams partnering Stirling in the halves, but he came on in the second half of the series-clinching 17-14 second test triumph at Castleford after English star Alex Murphy’s controversial high tackle on Stirling.

Woollard was back in the starting lineup at standoff for the 12-3 final test defeat at Leeds, with William shifted to the centres.

Woollard, who captained Auckland from 1969 to 1971, came into his own in the France series, starting all three tests against the Chanticleers.

He scored his first test try in the second international, won by the Kiwis 24-2 in Carcassonne to clinch the series, and signed off with another for the Kiwis’ only points in a 3-3 draw in the dead rubber fixture in Toulouse.

By then in his 30th year, Woollard hung up his boots after the tour following 10 tests (two tries) and another 32 non-international appearances (for three tries).

After playing in Auckland for Otahuhu and Mt Albert, Woollard returned to the capital, signing for St George in 1974. He coached the club to the 1977 Wellington title.

Woollard was the 13th member of the 26-man 1971 Kiwis team to pass away since 1998.