Whineray leaves brilliant rugby legacy

Getty Images     23 Oct 2012     Getty Images

Whineray, whose knighthood was a reflection of rugby and business service, had been in hospital for a month.

A former chairman of the Hillary Commission, the forerunner of Sport New Zealand, he moved from rugby into business after retiring from the game in 1965. After studying at Harvard University for an MBA in 1967 and 1968 he retuned to New Zealand and later became the chairman of one of the country's largest companies, Carter Holt Harvey.

At the time of his death he was the patron of the New Zealand Rugby Union, a position he had held since 2003 and was the fourth inductee to the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.

Whineray played rugby for several provinces in New Zealand as he completed studies at Massey Agricultural College and Lincoln College. He played for Wairarapa (1953), mid Canterbury (1954), Manawatu (1955), Canterbury (1956-57), Waikato (1958) and finally settling in Auckland from 1959-66 which also included one of the longer Ranfurly Shield eras in history.

He first came into national prominence when touring Sri Lanka in 1955 with the New Zealand Under-21 team. He then led a New Zealand Under-23 team to Japan in 1958.

He made his first appearance of 77 in the All Blacks jersey on the 1957 tour to Australia. In those days of far fewer Test matches, he made 32 appearances between 1957 and 1965 his career culminating in the 3-1 series win over South Africa in 1965.

By far the crowning moment of his career was his leadership of the tour to Britain, Ireland and France in 1963-64, a tour which introduced a new generation of players to international rugby including, Brian Lochore, Chris Laidlaw, Earle Kirton, Waka Nathan and Ken Gray – all of whom would play a significant role in New Zealand's future.

At the end of the tour the All Blacks played the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park, a 36-3 victory which saw Whineray score the final try of the game when unleashing an outstanding dummy before crossing the line to score.

As he returned to halfway the Welsh crowd burst into "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", a recognition of the impact of his leadership on the tour.

Whineray penned an eloquent introduction to the bible of All Blacks rugby, Men In Black. In it he described the loneliness of leadership of an international side.

"The transition to All Black captain happens to some players and I think most agree with me that it is a somewhat overrated occupation. What I found to be the least enjoyable part is that both circumstance and the position itself force you away from members of the team – many of whom are your greatest friends...Most captains, I know, would gladly give much of it away and return to the ranks," he wrote.

Whineray noted of the decision-making involved in Test-match play: "I have heard it said that the difference between the levels of differing sports is the ability of top performers to operate in a shorter and shorter time zone. This, I believe, is essentially true, and certainly events move quickly in a Test match. There is an urgency not apparent in lesser games."

Whineray also applied a philosophic outlook to a game which sometimes bubbles over in enthusiasm and concern among New Zealanders when teams are not doing well.

"The history of rugby is no more than a history of the people who have been involved with the game, reflecting the hopes and attitudes of their era.

"No other institution has done so much to cross social, religious, racial, cultural and economic boundaries so comprehensively and with so little pretence," he said.

Rugby was, Whineray said, 'a basically decent and honourable game'.

Whineray his survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.