Southland rugby identity Ray Harper was a typical product of his rugby generation marking a commitment to the game firstly as a player, but then as a coach and administrator.
But it was on the Southland turf that he defended so determinedly that he made his mark, firstly as a player for his Pirates club in Invercargill but then in 44 games for Southland between 1948 and 1954. That included international games against Australian sides and the 1950 British & Irish Lions.
After his playing career, Harper turned to coaching between 1962-67 and his sides recorded wins over the 1962 Australian tourists and the 1966 British & Irish Lions in the first New Zealand game of their Australasian tour. He moved into administration with the Southland Rugby Football Union serving on its management committee from 1965 until 1986. He was vice-president of the SRFU from 1976-1980.
His influence was not confined to rugby in the southern community as he took a lead role in the development of the indoor sports complex which included New Zealand's first cycling velodrome and alongside the home venue for the highly-rated Southern Sting netball side which won several national titles.
He was twice honoured in the New Zealand honours list for his services to the community and rugby and in 2012 he received New Zealand Rugby's Steinlager Salver for his service to rugby.