New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi Great, John Whittaker #485, who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer last night.

Whittaker, 70, was inducted as one of New Zealand Rugby League’s Legends of League in 2012 due to his outstanding career in the Black and White jersey which spanned 13 seasons, he was also named in New Zealand Rugby League’s Team of the Century.

Whittaker made his international debut for the Kiwis in 1970 and went on to earn 24 caps for the Kiwis including four World Cups. Despite suffering significant injuries in a motoring accident, he made a full recovery and was recalled in the early 1980s after two years out of the national side.

Following his Kiwis career, Whittaker – affectionately known as “Poppy” – played in the 1986 Pacific Cup representing his home country of Rarotonga.

His early playing days were with the Randwick club in Wellington, where he was a key contributor in multiple premierships from 1968, through to 1983. He earned a mammoth 73 caps for Wellington, rightfully classing him as one of Wellington Rugby League’s greatest ever players.

The father of two and grandfather of four will forever be known as a New Zealand Rugby League icon in which his legacy both on and off the field will continue to inspire many for generations to come.

May he rest in peace.