Rugby league legend Johnny Whiteley MBE dies aged 91 | Rugby League News

News Story

Johnny Whiteley MBE made his Hull FC debut in 1950 and went on to make 418 appearances for the club; he was a member of the Great Britain squad that won the 1954 and 1960 Rugby League World Cups; Whiteley was made an MBE in 2005 for services to rugby league and the community

Last Updated: 14/02/22 12:54pm

Johnny Whiteley spent his entire playing career with Hull FC

Johnny Whiteley spent his entire playing career with Hull FC

Two-time World Cup winner and rugby league great Johnny Whiteley has died aged 91.

Whiteley is synonymous with Hull FC, having played for them throughout his distinguished career, with the club acknowledging him as their “greatest ever”.

He made 418 appearances for the Black and Whites and would later coach them, as well as city rivals Hull Kingston Rovers, with both clubs nominating him for his place in the sport’s Hall of Fame.

Whiteley won the World Cup in 1954 and 1960 and also gained 15 Great Britain caps. He also coached the side to a 1970 Ashes win in Australia, still the last series win by the Lions down under.

Whiteley was made an MBE for services to rugby league and the community in the 2005 New Year honours list.

Whiteley won two Rugby League World Cups in 1954 and 1960

Whiteley won two Rugby League World Cups in 1954 and 1960

  • One of 28 members of the Rugby League Hall of Fame.
  • Never sent off, he was nicknamed ‘Gentleman John’ for his scrupulously fair play in an era when international loose forward rivals were ‘Rocky’ (Derek Turner) and ‘Wild Bull’ (Vince Karalius).
  • The last Great Britain coach to win an Ashes series vs Australia in 1970.
  • Played in the last Great Britain team to win a home Ashes series vs Australia in 1959, starring in wins at Leeds and Wigan.
  • A member of Great Britain squads that won two of the first three Rugby League World Cup tournaments in 1954 and 1960.
  • Appeared for Hull FC in the club’s first two Wembley Cup Finals in 1959 and 1960.
  • Played in three consecutive Championship Finals for Hull FC, winning in 1956 and was captain in the 1958 defeat of Workington Town.
  • Coached both Hull FC (1963-70) and Hull KR (1970-72).

“Johnny is widely regarded as the finest rugby league player to represent this city, and amongst the very best in the history of the sport, so this is an extremely sad day for our club and for rugby league,” Hull FC chief executive James Clark said.

“He represented Hull FC as a player, coach and ambassador with passion, humility and the utmost dedication for the last 70 years and he will leave a significant hole in the family and fabric of this club.

“Johnny approached life with such youthful energy, vigour and determination, and despite how sad this moment is, it should also be an opportunity to celebrate his incredible life and legacy, including his dedication to the sport and the city he loved so dearly.

“His influence and contribution reaches far beyond rugby league and he served his community selflessly for many, many years, which will never be forgotten.

“For those of us who knew him and had the privilege of spending invaluable time with him, he will not only be remembered as a legend of the club, the finest ambassador for the sport and a dedicated servant of the city – but most notably, a great friend.

“On behalf of Adam [Pearson], our board and everyone associated with Hull FC, we send our heartfelt condolences to Joan, Kim, Jane and the rest of the family, who will always be part of the family at this club.”

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer described Whiteley as a “remarkable man”.

“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,” Rimmer said.

“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.”

Hull plan to mark Whiteley’s life when they play St Helens on Saturday.

Leave a Reply