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Hull FC announce brilliant tribute to Johnny Whiteley MBE with Lizzie Jones MBE set to perform

Johnny Whiteley is considered by many to be the greatest Hull-born player of all time.

A ‘one-club’ player, Johnny made 417 appearances for Hull FC over 15 seasons, plus 15 Test and World Cup appearances for Great Britain. In 1958 he was a member of the tour squad that retained the Ashes in Australia and four years later was part of the legendary Great Britain squad that beat the Aussies once again Down Under.

In between those tours (1959) Whiteley featured in the last Great Britain side to win a test series against Australia on home soil.

Johnny captained Hull FC with distinction from 1957, becoming player coach from 1963-65, then taking up the coaching reins on a full-time basis from 1965-70. He then coached the Great Britain squad that toured Australia in 1970 – the last to win the Ashes Down Under.

He would go on to coach Hull Kingston Rovers, Yorkshire and Great Britain again, before finally leaving the game to concentrate on his business interests.

In 2005 Johnny was awarded the MBE for his services to Rugby League, most latterly in recognition of his role in founding the community club West Hull ARLFC.

RFL Chief Executive, Ralph Rimmer, says: “Johnny Whiteley MBE was a remarkable man, loved and respected by both Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers, and someone whose life will rightly be remembered and celebrated well beyond his home city, and beyond the sport of Rugby League.

“He was a unique link between the first Rugby League World Cup of 1954, in which he was a non-playing member of the victorious Great Britain squad, and our last Great Britain team to win the Ashes in 1970, when he was the coach – the players from that tour always talk of him with awe, affection and respect.

“His stature in our sport is underlined by his place in the Rugby League Hall of Fame and on the RFL’s Roll of Honour, and it is significant that he was awarded the MBE in 2005 for services both to Rugby League and to the community of his home city, where he was such a popular and loved figure.

“On behalf of the RFL and the sport, our condolences to his family and his many friends.”

And, now the Hull FC club has announced their own brilliant tribute to Whiteley to take place at tomorrow’s live game with St Helens.

Ahead of kick off, Hull FC will bring together representatives of the rugby league community that have been blessed by Johnny’s involvement over the years.

Lizzie Jones MBE will represent the rugby league family with a special rendition of the sport’s favourite anthem, Abide With Me, before a special video looks back on Johnny’s life in black and white.

Young players from West Hull ARLFC, the club Johnny helped form in the 1960s, will be flag bearers and mascots, joining special guests from the Hull FC Ex-Players Association who will form a Guard of Honour in tribute to their former team mate, coach and friend.

Super League will be represented by both club captains, Luke Gale and James Roby, who will lay a wreath before kick-off, alongside referee Chris Kendall, on behalf of the RFL. They will be joined by the Lord Mayor of Hull, Councillor Lynn Petrini, and the Leader of Hull City Council, Cllr Darren Hale, who will pay thanks to Johnny on behalf of the City of Hull.

To round off a special moment, the club will be proud to welcome Johnny’s great grandchildren, Jack and Leo, who will deliver the official match ball, under escort from military personnel reflecting Johnny’s time in the armed services, namely Sgt Nick Cross (RAF) and L/Cpl Ryan Watkin (Army) who both feature for their forces rugby league teams.

The pre-match commemorations will be rounded off by a special address from Hull FC Club Chaplain, Rev. Tony Cotson, which will be followed by a minute’s silence.

Longer term opportunities to reflect the life and career of Johnny Whiteley MBE will continue to be discussed and shared in due course.

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