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Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 078: Roy White

Flanker Roy Maxwell White was Wellington’s first post second world war captain, an All Black and later a Wellington selector and leading administrator at his Petone club.

White was Wellington’s captain between 1945-48 and he played 10 games and four tests for the All Blacks in 1946-47. He played 67 first class games, spanning 1939-52.

White was a no-nonsense loose forward with tradesman-like qualities around the field and in the set-pieces and rugged areas of the game, the type of invaluable player hard to leave out of any side. He played both blindside and openside flanker throughout his career.

He was also a national R class yachting champion, so he sailed close to the wind.

The rugby waters were tumultuous over the opening half of the 1940s as the war took hold. As well as its effects dominating all rugby from the grassroots up, there were a number of players whose careers were curtailed significantly because of it, and White’s was one of those.

He was born in Dannevirke on 18 October 1917 and later educated at Hastings Boys’ High School, before making his way down to Wellington after leaving school.

He joined the Petone club and in 1938 was playing for the club’s Senior A team on the side of the scrum as Petone won the Jubilee Cup for the third time since its introduction in 1929.

He returned in 1939, for the last uninterrupted club season for the next six years, Petone missing out narrowly to champions the Wellington Axemen. White was first picked up in Wellington’s representative squad that season.

Starting in 1940 and accelerating over the next few seasons, the war years took hold. Like all big clubs, Petone lost a number of players to the services, many of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice.

White played for Petone throughout these dark winters, Petone winning the Jubilee Cup again 1942, with Petone and the wartime Trentham Army team drawing 16-16 in one of the biggest matches of the season.

The combined Poneke-Oriental side went back-to-back in 1943 and 1944 but Petone chased them hard.

In 1944 White was selected for the North Island team for the first of three consecutive years, for their annual match against the South, the North winning 28-3.

In 1945, he switched to playing for that Trentham Army side – helping this team to a 35-10 win over Petone during the season. Athletic won that year’s Jubilee Cup.

That same season he played representative matches for both Wellington and for army services teams. On 4 June he played for a Central Services team in a 5-20 loss to Wellington; at the end of the season he played for a New Zealand Combined Services team against a New Zealand XV in a 13-29 defeat.

He returned to Petone in 1946, a busy year on White’s calendar.

In representative matches, he was back playing fulltime for Wellington when available – making a further six appearances. This included captaining Wellington to a 18-11 win over the New Zealand ‘Kiwis’ team that had successfully toured Europe in the 1945-46 northern winter and captaining Wellington to a 10-16 loss to the touring Australians.

In 1946 he was selected as captain for the North Island team against the South, the North winning 8-3 in Wellington.

White was then picked for the first official post-war All Blacks side and played both tests as vice-captain against the touring Wallabies, scoring a try on debut in Dunedin in the 31-8 win. The All Blacks won the second test 14-10.

The following year he toured Australia and played another two tests on the side of the All Blacks scrum, a 13-5 win in Brisbane and a 27-14 win in Sydney, and played in seven tour matches, which included one match against a NSW XV as captain. Upon return, he played in the All Blacks team that lost 3-14 to Auckland, his 10th and final match for New Zealand.

All Blacks 1947 – Roy White circled.

He made another six appearances whilst leading Wellington to a 12/3 winning record in 15 first-class outings, and again played a leading role for Petone when available, the 1947 Jubilee Cup being won by the Wellington Axemen.

He received another All Blacks trial in 1948 but failed to gain selection for the following year’s tour to South Africa.

He played for Petone again and then his final season for Wellington in 1948, captaining the province to a busy but difficult season results-wise, which culminated in a 0-11 Ranfurly Shield to Otago on 25 September before ending his 43-match representative career with Wellington.

White was involved in the Centurions club and turned out for them in a handful of matches between 1950-52, which were given first-class status.

After hanging up his boots, White remained immersed in the game. He had a long administrative career with both Petone and Wellington.

He was Wellington’s selector between 1961-63, was Wellington B selector-coach for several seasons and was a member of the WRFU’s junior management committee.

The Wellington rugby selectors: Alan Wright (left), Clarrie Gibbons (centre) and Roy White (right).

He was on Petone’s committee for 19 years and served as President in 1968-69 and again between 1976-79, prior to his passing on 19 January 1980, aged 62. In 1967 he was honoured with Life Membership of Petone.

He managed Petone’s tour of South Africa in 1974, the first by a New Zealand club.

Outside of rugby, White worked as an Engineer.


  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
  • All Blacks A-Z profile Roy Maxwell White
  • Chester, R.H. and McMillan, N.AC. The Visitors. The History of International Rugby Teams in New Zealand. Moa Publications, Auckland, 1990
  • Evening Post newspaper various reports 1939-1945.
  • Griffin, Don and Gallagher, Peter. True Blue. The first 100 years of the Petone Rugby Football Club Incorporated 1885-1985. Apex Print, Petone, 1985.
  • Palenski/Chester/McMillan. The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Rugby. Hodder Moa, Auckland 2005.
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed
  • Headline photo credit: M. White. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-202989-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22321547
  • Selectors photo credit: Wellington rugby selectors Wright, Gibbons and White. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-207889-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22717229

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