Former Kiwis coach Tony 'Tank' Gordon dies

Last updated 13:46 25/03/2012

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Former New Zealand rugby league coach Tony (Tank) Gordon has died in Rotorua after a long illness.

Gordon, a convert to league from rugby union at which he was blockbusting wing three-quarter and fullback for King Country, played for and coached Bay of Plenty and the Kiwis in the 1980s.

Following his New Zealand tenure, Gordon coached London Crusaders and Hull in the United Kingdom.

International success on his elevation to Kiwis coach in 1987 was immediate.

His Kiwis beat Australia 13-6 in his first game, a surprise despite a build-up of two games in Australia.

Though the next four internationals against Australia were lost, Tank Gordon retained his popularity with league's hierarchy, taking the team to the World Cup finals in 1988.

He had previously achieved World Cup finals distinction as a Kiwi player in 1975.

Gordon was replaced as coach in 1989.

Though his record for the times was impressive - he had replaced the high profile Graham Lowe - divisions within the Kiwis became apparent after he was replaced as coach.

Criticism from senior players at Gordon's coaching style was trenchant..

In 1996, back in Rotorua, he turned to the 15-man code coaching the Kahukura senior rugby side.

He fell on hard times in the late 1990s and was jailed for fraud. On release, Gordon made reparation in the community and worked at social welfare levels with Rotorua youth.
Gordon was worked for Te Wananga o Aotearoa where he headed Tuia, the union representing the majority of wananga academic staff.
The wananga's chief executive, Bentham Ohia, said today was sad as it marked the loss of an exceptionally talented man.
"Tank was a man who was hardworking, humble, and was committed to helping others."
Though in declining health in recent years, Gordon continued to advocate strongly for the staff he represented.
"Tank continued to use his range of skills to advocate for the best outcomes for those he represented," Mr Ohia said.

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- Fairfax Media

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