JOHNNY WHITELEY HULL FC & GREAT BRITAIN RUGBY LEAGUE LEGEND.
Johnny Whiteley Hull FC Rugby League Legend. A tribute by Kevin Ellis, founder of Ellis Rugby.
Hull FC Legend Johnny Whiteley MBE dies aged 91. A tribute.
I was saddened by the recent news that former Great Britain player and coach and Hull FC legend Johnny Whiteley MBE had died, aged 91.
Memories of the first Rugby League World Cup in 1954
His memories of the first-ever Rugby League World Cup competition stage in France in 1954. Johnny explained that the 1954 team was a ‘make-shift’ squad as many of the players had just returned from playing in the Ashes Series in Australia and were unable to get additional time off work to compete in France. Then as they prepared to make the trip across the channel, the squad were informed by officials they wouldn’t be accompanied by the Coach as the Rugby League couldn’t afford his wage.
The squad traveled to Paris, but were delayed on route, but made their way to the training ground for their one and only training session before the tournament. When they arrived at the stadium, the French officials assumed they were not training after all had left for the evening chaining up the metal gates. The team scaled the fence only to then realise that they didn’t have a rugby ball to train with. Johnny came to the rescue and created something that resembled a ball through knotted clothing.
Johnny Whiteley was a member of the Great Britain Rugby League squad that reached the final
Despite being an inexperienced team and all the setbacks in preparation Great Britain reached the final and in front of over 30,000 partisan supporters at the Parc des Princes defeated France by 16 points to 12. Johnny didn’t get a run-out in the competition as the skipper of the squad, Scotsman Dave Valentine played in the same Loose Forward position. He was though a Ashes series winner over Australia with the Lions as both player and coach. In addition, he was part of three World Cup squads between 1954 and 1960.
Ellis Rugby launch Hall of Fame range inspired by Johnny Whiteley Hull FC Legend
I met Johnny at a Rugby League Cares ex-players reunion at the Emerald Headingley Stadium. We’d recently launched our Hall of Fame range celebrating his amazing career. This included Hull FC Championship success in 1956. When Colin Hutton kicked a last-minute penalty in the final against Halifax at Maine Road, Manchester.
Hull FC Championship victories in 1956 and 1958
Then victory again in 1958 against Workington. The silky skills of Johnny Whiteley began to dominate in the second half. And he had a hand in all three second-half tries. He combined with brother Peter. Also, he sent prop Mick Scott through who stepped Workington stand-off Harry Archer to score. Whiteley then sent Tommy Finn away for a brilliantly worked Try. Between he scored a great try himself. By spotting a gap from acting half-back and sprinting 30 yards to the line.
Johnny Whiteley MBE and the outstanding Great Britain Rugby League Ashes-winning team of 1958
In 1958 he starred for the Great Britain Lions in their historic Ashes victory against the Kangaroos. In the first Test, he played Loose Forward. But moved into the Second Row along with Dick Huddart, allowing Vince Karalius to operate at Loose Forward. With this outstanding back row, the Lions smashed the Australians 25-18 in the second Test in Brisbane. Then 40 points to 17 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the third Test. Johnny also crossed for a try.
Johnny Whiteley Great Britain Rugby League Ashes-winning Coach of 1970
Victory against the Australian Kangaroos in the 1970 Ashes Series third Test
Johnny Whiteley Hull FC honours & successes
In addition to the Championship successes. He played in the Challenge Cup finals with Hull. And scored 156 tries in 417 games. Also coached both Hull FC and Hull KR. His services to rugby league were rewarded with an MBE in 2005.
Our thoughts are with Johnny’s family & friends. What a man, what a fantastic player!
(Pictured, Founder of Ellis Rugby, Kevin Ellis with Johnny Whiteley MBE in 2019 at the Emerald Headingley Stadium)