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14 Feb 2022

The RFL pays tribute to Johnny Whiteley MBE

The RFL pays tribute to Johnny Whiteley MBE

The RFL, on behalf of the entire Rugby League community, offers its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Johnny Whiteley MBE. 

Johnny Whiteley is considered by many to be the greatest Hull-born player of all time. A ‘one-club’ player, Johnny made 417 appearances for Hull FC over 15 seasons, plus 15 Test and World Cup appearances for Great Britain. In 1958 he was a member of the tour squad that retained the Ashes in Australia and four years later was part of the legendary Great Britain squad that beat the Aussies once again Down Under. In between those tours (1959) Whiteley featured in the last Great Britain side to win a test series against Australia on home soil. 

Johnny captained Hull FC with distinction from 1957, becoming player coach from 1963-65, then taking up the coaching reins on a full-time basis from 1965-70. He then coached the Great Britain squad that toured Australia in 1970 – the last to win the Ashes Down Under. 

He would go on to coach Hull Kingston Rovers, Yorkshire and Great Britain again, before finally leaving the game to concentrate on his business interests. 

In 2005 Johnny was awarded the MBE for his services to Rugby League, most latterly in recognition of his role in founding the community club West Hull ARLFC. 

RFL Chief Executive, Ralph Rimmer, says: “Johnny Whiteley MBE was a remarkable man, loved and respected by both Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers, and someone whose life will rightly be remembered and celebrated well beyond his home city, and beyond the sport of Rugby League.

“He was a unique link between the first Rugby League World Cup of 1954, in which he was a non-playing member of the victorious Great Britain squad, and our last Great Britain team to win the Ashes in 1970, when he was the coach – the players from that tour always talk of him with awe, affection and respect.

“His stature in our sport is underlined by his place in the Rugby League Hall of Fame and on the RFL’s Roll of Honour, and it is significant that he was awarded the MBE in 2005 for services both to Rugby League and to the community of his home city, where he was such a popular and loved figure.

“On behalf of the RFL and the sport, our condolences to his family and his many friends.”