Papanui and Canterbury stalwart Rodney Walker’s tally of four Tests – three of which were as a replacement – for New Zealand did not give true reflection of his level of talent.
The loose forward and occasional five-eighth was integral to the Papanui side that played in eight straight Grand Finals for seven titles during the 1970s (including in the 1975 Grand Final loss and 1976-78 wins as player-coach), while he became the first player to make 50 appearances for Canterbury.
The 1964 Schoolboy Kiwis captain in 1964, Walker skippered New Zealand Colts on a tour to Australia in 1969 and made his Test debut at lock against Australia that year. He came off the bench in the series opener against Great Britain the following season as a half, but a broken ankle ruled him out of contention for the 1970 World Cup.
After missing the Kiwis’ watershed 1971 season and the following season’s tour of Australia, Walker was recalled for the 1972 tour of France, where he was a replacement during losses to Australia and Great Britain.
Walker’s run of 44 consecutive games for Canterbury came to an end in 1974, a season in which he also played for South Island against Great Britain. He was described by John Coffey as, ‘Still the most gifted footballer in Canterbury’ in the Air New Zealand Rugby League Annual review of the 1976 season despite his hiatus from the representative arena, while he returned to the provincial team to bring up the half-century in 1977.
NEW ZEALAND (1969-70, 1972)
4 Tests – 0 points
-1972 Kiwis World Cup squad