Top 5 Greatest New Zealand Rugby Players of All Time

New Zealand Rugby Team performing the Haka.
New Zealand Rugby Team performing the Haka.

Despite only having a population of around 5 million, New Zealand teams are often among the best in the world.

New Zealand’s unheralded success in world rugby across all levels is due to the Kiwi culture – where rugby is an ingrained aspect of everyday life, says Kiwi-born UK rugby presenter James Gemmell.

Rugby game that requires a lot of physical fitness, agility, and strength; you need a lot of muscle to withstand the tackles. The fact that both the English and the Māori played similar games meant that it was a great way for them to bond and connect. It also fit the New Zealand way of life perfectly; the settlers that arrived were hardened rural farmers, but the real star of the show was the Māori who were very strong and already very skilled at a similar sport.

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Here are the New Zealand’s Greatest Rugby League Players:

5) Des White:

Des White, an Auckland legend, was named New Zealand’s Team of the Century fullback, beating out Matthew Ridge and Gary Kemble. White’s New Zealand Test record of 132 points held for 40 years, and he was a key figure in the Kiwis’ series victory over Australia in 1952 and 1953, scoring a then-world-record 11 goals in the second Test at Brisbane in the former.

Watch: Legendary rugby league player Des White - NZ Herald
Former Kiwis great Des White on the legendary 1952-1953 Kiwis team, their famed coach Jim Amos, stopping the then greatest player in the world. (Image Credits: Nzherald)

He was named amongst the country’s finest players of the 20th century. His total for points scored in all matches for the Kiwis is a record 467.

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4) Stacey Jones:

Stacey William Jones, ONZM is a former professional rugby league player from New Zealand who has been considered one of the best the country has ever produced. During his long career, which included 46 Tests for New Zealand, he played halfback but also briefly at five-eighth.

Rugby League: Kiwis Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki admitted to NRL Hall of Fame | Newshub
Kiwis Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki admitted to NRL Hall of Fame. (Image Credit: NewsHub)

Jones was recruited by the fledgling Auckland Warriors team and made his first-grade debut against the Parramatta Eels in what is now the National Rugby League’s inaugural season in 1995. (NRL). Jones made his first-grade debut in Sydney on April 23, 1995, scoring a try off the bench in the Warriors’ 40–4 triumph over the Parramatta Eels.

3) Ruben Wiki:

Ruben James Wiki ONZM is a retired rugby league player from New Zealand who played in the 1990s and 2000s. He retired with the most international appearances of any rugby league player in history as a New Zealand international representative center-turned-prop forwards.

Former Warrior Ruben Wiki shines at his latest physical endeavour |
Former Warrior Ruben Wiki shines at his latest physical endeavor. (Image Credit:

Wiki scored 60 goals in 224 games for the Raiders, later moving into the engine room at club level, and finishing his career with four seasons with the Warriors, becoming the first overseas player – and only the 10th player in history – to reach 300 first-grade appearances. He played in five Test victories over Australia, and he captained the 2005 Tri-Nations final boil over in 18 Tests.

2) Ron Ackland:

Ronald Charles Ackland was a professional rugby league player from New Zealand who played in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, as well as coaching in the 1960s and 1970s. He represented New Zealand in the 1957 and 1960 World Cups, as well as coaching in the 1977 World Cup.

Ron Ackland
One of the rare picture of Sir. Ron Ackland playing rugby.

At Auckland club level. Ackland played for Mount Albert, Eastern United and Southern Districts and City-Newton. In more recent time Ackland was a fixture at Mount Smart Stadium, becoming a season ticketholder/member when the Auckland Warriors entered the Winfield Cup in 1995.  A star for three different Auckland clubs – Mt Albert, City-Newton and Eastern United – Ackland also spent time in Australia as a captain/coach at Goulburn and Inverell.

1) Roger Bailey:

Roger Wayne Bailey is a former New Zealand rugby league footballer and coach who played thirty times for his country between 1961 and 1970. His brother Gary was also a professional player for New Zealand, while his brother Bob later coached the country. His son David was also a professional player.

Roger Bailey
A stoic captain of the Ponies’ side for many years, Bailey was also a regular captain of Auckland.

In 1973 Bailey won the Hyland Memorial Cup as coach of the year in the Auckland Rugby League competition. Speed and support play were the other mainstays of Bailey’s game in the early days, where he combined wonderfully with fellow Hall of Fame inductee Ron Ackland for Auckland and New Zealand.


Major Auckland team trophies won

3 Fox Memorial Premierships (1967, 1972 and 1973)
1 Roope Rooster victory (1972)
3 Stormont Shield victories (1967, 1972, 1973)

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1 Comment

  1. Informative content. I was browsing NZ rugby and pop in into 5 Greatest New Zealand Rugby Players. I hope they can bring the trophy home this time.

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