John Raper

Coaching Career

Vital Statistics

Full Name
John William Raper
Wednesday, 12th April, 1939
Wednesday, 9th February, 2022 (Aged 82 years and 303 days)

Awards & Accolades

Harry Sunderland Medal
Clive Churchill Medal
International Hall Of Fame
National Rugby League Hall Of Fame
NSWRL Hall Of Fame

Known Family Links

Aaron Raper
Stuart Raper
Ron Raper
Maurie Raper
Gerard Raper
Peter Raper


Rated the greatest lock forward the game has produced, there are some judges who rank the intractable Johnny Raper above Messenger and Churchill as the greatest player - if not the greatest personality – rugby league has seen. Raper tackled his love of the game, and his life off the football field, with equal intensity. A member of a noted footballing family that grew up in Revesby, author Gary Lester (Berries to Bulldogs, 1984) claims that the champion forward could have been in fact a C’bury junior. At 18, the budding champion was graded from the Newtown President's Cup team after being supplied with a false address by the club in order to get around the strict residential qualification laws at the time. Raper represented Sydney Colts against Great Britain in 1958 but his career went into overdrive with St George the following year. In a brilliant 1959 season Raper played for NSW, Australia in three Tests against NZ (making his Test debut at five-eighth) and toured with the Kangaroos in a year in which St George won the premiership undefeated (Raper played in the grand final against Manly as a centre). From 1959 to 1967 he made 33 Test appearances, toured with the Kangaroos three times (1959-60, 1963-64 & 1967-68) and appeared in two World Cup campaigns (1960 and 1968) - the latter as captain. (He still holds the record for Tests against France with 12 appearances). While Raper established a reputation as the game's finest cover-defender his attacking prowess was also sharp and intelligent. Frank Hyde rated his performance in the Second Test against Great Britain on the 1963-64 Kangaroo Tour – the 50-12 ‘Swinton Massacre’ that secured Australia the Ashes for the first time in England for over 50 years - as the greatest 80 minutes of football by any one player. But 'Chook' Raper did not just reserve his best for the Test arena; his efforts for St George during the 1960s were simply inspirational and marked him as the consummate team player. Raper played in eight grand final wins from 1959-66 and was also stand-in five-eighth for 'Poppa' Clay in 1962. Raper was one of the game's great characters and stories of his off-field antics have become legendary. Reports of misbehaviour on the 1967-68 Kangaroo Tour may have damaged a lesser player but Raper was able to turn the infamous 'Bowler Hat' incident (of which he was accused but not actually involved) to his own advantage - the bowler hat has become his signature. On his third Kangaroo tour he captained Australia to an 11-3 win in the Ashes-deciding Third Test at Swinton. In the absence of the injured Reg Gasnier, Raper also led Australia in the three-Test series loss against France - proving that Raper's brilliance alone could not carry an injury-riddled team. When a host of St George champions retired at the end of 1967, Raper took over as captain (and captain-coach in 1969) but the club was beaten in the finals in consecutive years. At age 30, Raper quit Sydney to take on a five-year contract as captain-coach of Newcastle Wests. While he captained both Country and NSW in 1970 he was not called into the Test series against Great Britain. Raper continued playing until 1972 (by which time he was playing for Kurri Kurri) but his time as coach of Cronulla (1975-76) ended disappointingly with his resignation midway through his second season. In 1978 he took over as caretaker coach of Newtown following the resignation of Paul Broughton (although he resisted the temptation to a make a comeback as a player at age 39!). Raper retained close ties with the code as an Australian selector and was impassioned in his support of the ARL during the turmoil of the Super League war. Other great locks have come and gone but quite simply, there has only been one Johnny Raper. He was, and is, in a class of his own. Autobiography: The Man in the Bowler Hat (1997).

Coaching Career Statistics

All statistics shown in this section are based only on data available in the RLP database, and are not necessarily a complete and/or 100% accurate representation of a player's career. This information should be used as a guide only. If you see a question mark (?), it denotes that the figure is not available.

To view a list of corresponding matches, click on the List button.


Competition   Games W L D Win %  
Interstate Matches 2 2 0 0 100.00% List
City vs Country Firsts 1 1 0 0 100.00% List
NRL 84 34 47 3 40.48% List
NRL Finals 1 0 1 0 0.00% List
Tour Matches Newcastle Firsts (AU) 2 0 2 0 0.00% List
National Panasonic Cup 1 0 1 0 0.00% List
Tour Matches Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 1 0 0 1 0.00% List


Australia - By Team

Team Years Games W L D Win %  
NSW Firsts 1966 2 2 0 0 100.00% List
NSW City Firsts 1967 1 1 0 0 100.00% List
Newcastle (AU) 1970, 1974 2 0 2 0 0.00% List
Overall1966-1974 5 3 2 0 60.00% List

Club Career


Team Season Games W L D Win %  
St George NSWRFL 1969 23 14 9 0 60.87% List
Cronulla NSWRFL 1975 22 9 12 1 40.91% List
Cronulla NSWRFL 1976 22 9 12 1 40.91% List
Newtown NSWRFL 1978 17 2 14 1 11.76% List


Team Years Games W L D Win %  
St George 1969 23 14 9 0 60.87% List
Cronulla 1975-76 44 18 24 2 40.91% List
Newtown 1978 17 2 14 1 11.76% List
Overall1969-1978 84 34 47 3 40.48% List

Your Say

Polyanna says: In the slower pace of the unlimited tackle era (pre-1967), in one game Raper made eight tackles in a row. He personified perpetual motion.
Early in his career, he made sure that selectors were aware that he was a tacking machine by donning the distinctive headgear which made him easy to notice amongst a preponderance of bare-headed players on the field. (08/05/2012)

Anonymous says: Played his best footy at Newtown... (24/07/2012)

Neville says: Had the privilege to play with this legend in his last game of R.L. in the Newcastle district, Even though his best was behind him he still was head and shoulders above the Newcastle players. Johnny also has the same birth date as myself 12th April we are a few years apart in age but what he has forgotten about football others only wish they could attain. (27/10/2014)

John Forster says: John Raper was captain coach of Newcastle Western suburbs from 1970-1972. He then was player coach with Kurri Kurri 1973-1974. (06/07/2017)

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Contributions: Shawn Dollin, Andrew Ferguson, Rugby League Tables, Greg Fiveash, Alan Katzmann, Michael Borg, Paul Carter