Johnny Raper

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Johnny Raper
Johnny Raper.jpg
Raper in 2008
Personal information
Full name John William Raper
Nickname Chook[1]
Born (1939-04-12) 12 April 1939 (age 83)
Revesby, New South Wales, Australia
Playing information
Position Lock-forward
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1957–58 Newtown 37 10 0 0 30
1959–69 St George 185 47 4 0 149
1970–72 Wests (Newcastle) 39
1973–74 Kurri Kurri
Total 261 57 4 0 179
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1959–70 New South Wales 24 5 0 15
1959–68 Australia 39 9 0 0 27
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1969 St George 23 14 0 9 61
1970–72 Wests (Newcastle)
1973–74 Kurri Kurri
1975–76 Cronulla-Sutherland 44 18 2 24 41
1978 Newtown Jets 17 2 1 14 12
Total 84 34 3 47 40
As of 1 August 2009
Source: RLP

John Raper, MBE (born 12 April 1939 in Sydney, New South Wales) is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer and coach. He was a lock-forward for the Australia national team. He had a record 33 test caps between 1959 and 1968 and played in 6 World Cup games between 1960 to 1968.[2] Raper captained Australia on 8 occasions in 1967–68 and played in eight consecutive NSWRFL grand final victories for the St. George Dragons club. He has since been named as one of the nation’s finest footballers of the 20th century.[3]


Born in Revesby, in south-western Sydney into a working-class family of nine boys, he played junior football for the Camperdown Dragons before representing Newtown’s President’s Cup side in 1956.

Professional playing career


Raper joined and made his first grade debut for Newtown in 1957 as an eighteen-year-old.[4] Raper represented New South Wales Colts as a lock against Great Britain in 1958. Having agreed terms to leave Newtown to join the reigning premiers St George Raper sat out most of the 1958 season to comply with residential criteria.

Raper joined St George as a lock forward and it was in this position that he became an international rugby league star. His legendary cover defence and ball skills had him be acknowledged during his playing career as the best loose-forward the world had ever seen. He played in eight Grand final wins with St George between 1959 and 1966.[2]

Raper attributed his success to a training discipline and fitness fanaticism that was ahead of its time. While St George’s early adoption of circuit training in the late 1950s was a major contributing factor in their eleven-year premiership run, Raper’s own commitment to additional running and weights every day and often alone, enabled him to achieve a personal goal of being the fittest player in the fittest team in the competition.[5] In 1959–60 he made the first of his three Kangaroo tours, scoring a try on debut in the 3rd Test loss vs Great Britain at Wigan. For the next ten years he was rarely, except for injury, out of the Australian Test team.

Raper’s performance in the second test of the 1963 tour at Swinton which saw the Kangaroos register the biggest win in Anglo-Australian test history and become the first Australian touring team in fifty years to win the Ashes was pivotal. In the 50–12 victory, Raper had a hand in the first seven tries scored in an opening 25-minute routing and he gave the final pass in four of them.

In his 3rd Kangaroo tour of 1967–68 Raper suffered a cheekbone fracture in the opening 16–11 Test loss causing him to miss the 2nd Test won by Australia to keep the series alive. Captain-coach Reg Gasnier had broken a leg in the 1st Test so Raper upon his return to fitness was deputised and earned the ultimate Australian rugby league honour in captaining his country in the 11–3 win over Great Britain played in icy conditions on a frozen ground in Swinton on 21 October 1967. This test was the first time the Australians had beaten the English on English soil in many years.

Raper went on to captain Australia in the 1st and 3rd Tests against France in 1967–68 (Queenslander Peter "Pedro" Gallagher was the captain for the 2nd test when Raper was injured.) For the 1968 World Cup Raper captained Australia in their four games undefeated games of the tournament including the 20–2 victory against France in the final at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Raper’s last season with St. George was in 1969 as captain-coach. In 1969 he appeared as a guest player for Auckland in a match against the New Zealand Kiwis to mark the New Zealand Rugby League’s diamond jubilee.[6] Raper was awarded Life Membership of the St. George Dragons Club in 1971.[7]


Raper played three seasons with the Western Suburbs Rosellas in the Newcastle competition from 1970–1972. He captain coached the club and took them to victory in the 1970 grand final.[8] He finished his playing career with Kurri Kurri in 1973–1974.[2]


Point scoring summary

Games Tries Goals F/G Points
223 57. 4 179

Coaching career

Raper returned to Sydney as coach of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in 1975–76, commencing an association with that club later carried on by his sons Stuart Raper and Aaron Raper. He also coached a Lane Cove Rugby Union Club team to victory in the Judd Cup suburban competition in 1977.[9] After five games of the 1978 NSWRFL season and internal turmoil leading to the resignation of first-grade coach Paul Broughton,[10] Raper took over as coach of the Newtown Jets in a caretaker capacity.

Later life

In retirement Raper for a time played a larger-than-life celebrity role: making a record, appearing in commercials for a tyre company and the Liberal party and as an in-demand speaker and guest on radio and TV talk shows. Much higher honours were to follow: an award of a Member of the British Empire; selection in 1985 as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game with Churchill, Gasnier and Fulton; appointment in 1988 as an Australian Test selector and representative of the New South Wales Rugby League. Raper was also inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.[11] Always regarded as a larrikin in his playing days, Raper is now seen as one of Rugby League’s most ardent ambassadors and senior statesmen. In 2000, his portrait was entered into the Archibald Prize. In 2002 Raper was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame. In 2007 he was selected by a panel of experts at lock in an Australian 'Team of the 50s'.[12]

In February 2008, Raper was named in the list of Australia’s 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code’s centenary year in Australia.[13][14] Raper went on to be named as lock in Australian rugby league’s Team of the Century. Announced on 17 April 2008, the team is the panel’s majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players.[15][16] While playing football, Raper also served in the New South Wales Police Force and in 2008, rugby league’s centenary year in Australia, he was named at lock-forward in a NSW Police team of the century. In 2008 New South Wales announced their rugby league team of the century also, and again Raper was named at lock.[17] Raper was named captain and second-row forward in the Western Suburbs Rosellas’ team of the century.

Footballing relatives

A number of Raper’s brothers had success in top-grade rugby league. Ron played an 128-game career for Canterbury over seven seasons from 1966, kicking a field-goal from the halfway line in their 1967 Grand final loss to South Sydney. He played out the end of his career as captain/coach at Wests Brisbane and made two representative appearance for Queensland in 1973.

Maurie Raper played eighty-seven first grade matches for Penrith and Cronulla in an eight-year career, Gerard made two first grade appearances for Canterbury in 1977 and Peter, two appearances for Newtown while Michael played in lower grades.[18]

Johnny’s son Aaron played as a hooker for Cronulla and Parramatta between 1990 and 1998, and was widely regarded as likely to become the top hooker in Australia during an impressive first season in 1992. However, an exceptionally bad run with injuries, including a severe blood clot that threatened his life during 1994, prevented Aaron from ever reaching the heights his father did, and he played representative rugby league only during the Super League war in 1995. Aaron later moved to England and played in the Illawarra competition as late as 2010.


  • Whiticker, Alan (2004) Captaining the Kangaroos, New Holland, Sydney
  • Writer, Larry (1995) Never Before, Never Again, Pan MacMillan, Sydney
  • Whiticker, Alan & Hudson, Glen (2006) The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, Gavin Allen Publishing, Sydney

External links


  1. Paul Vautin and Johnny Raper; Ian Heads (1990). Fatty and Chook, Laughing at League. Lester-Townsend Publishing. ISBN 978-0-949853-36-3. ISBN 0-949853-36-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Whiticker/Hudson p. 451
  3. Century’s Top 100 Players
  4. Toby Creswell and Samantha Trenoweth (2006). 1001 Australians You Should Know. Australia: Pluto Press. p. 422. ISBN 978-1-86403-361-8. ISBN 1-86403-361-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Writer p.300
  6. Coffey, John and Bernie Wood Auckland, 100 years of rugby league, 1909-2009, 2009. ISBN 978-1-86969-366-4. p.p.207-208
  7. The Sydney Morning Herald: 9 December 1971 (page 13)
  8. "West Rosellas RLFC Newcastle - TEAM OF THE CENTURY". West Rosellas RLFC. Retrieved 30 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Rugby League Week, 10 September 1977
  10. “Raper takes over the reins”; in Sydney Morning Herald; April 28, 1978; p. 18
  11. "John Raper MBE". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 16 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. AAP (1 August 2007). "Team of the 50s named". The Daily Telegraph. Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 6 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Peter Cassidy (23 February 2008). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. Retrieved 23 February 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Todd Balym (17 April 2008). "Johns, Meninga among Immortals". Fox Sports Australia. Retrieved 17 April 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Team of the Century Announced". NRL & ARL. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. ARL (2008). "Australian Rugby Football League 2008 Annual Report" (pdf). Australian Rugby Football League Limited. p. 30. Retrieved 19 July 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Whiticker/Hudson p. 452
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Peter Gallagher
Australian national rugby league captain
Succeeded by
John Sattler
Preceded by
Norm Provan
St George Dragons

Succeeded by
Jack Gibson
Preceded by
Tommy Bishop
Cronulla Sharks

Succeeded by
Ted Glossop
Preceded by
Paul Broughton
Newtown Jets

Succeeded by
Warren Ryan