Former New Zealand rugby league coach and player Tony "Tank'' Gordon from Rotorua has died.

He died in Rotorua at the weekend following a long illness.

He played rugby for King Country and quickly made the Kiwis once he changed codes. He made the national side after just 14 league matches with bustling hard-running displays at fullback or on the wing.

The former Army PT instructor was the player/coach for the Waiouru Army side while he was stationed there and

held the same role in Turangi when he left the army.


Army life exposed Gordon to much of his coaching philosophies with hard work, fitness and sticking to the task for each other among his major tools. He also supplemented his practical knowledge by studying sports and he was the head of department of sport for Rotorua's Te Wananga O Aotearoa.

During his time with club and representative rugby league teams, Gordon had shown a knack for turning unfashionable sides into winning outfits.

In 1983 he took a Kiwi side of largely unknown and amateur players to upset Australia while he also helped the Bay of Plenty and Coastline league sides to some memorable wins and major trophies.

His coaching career also included stints in the United Kingdom where he coached the London Crusaders and

Hull and the Bay of Plenty Rugby league side in New Zealand.

In recent years Tank was head of Tuia, the union representing the majority of Te Wananga o Aotearoa academic staff.

Te Wananga o Aotearoa Pouhere (chief executive) Bentham Ohia said it was a loss of an exceptionally talented man.

"Tank was a man who was hardworking, humble, and was committed to helping others.''

Mr Gordon had suffered declining health in recent years, but 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. He remained passionate about his whanau and sport. His good humour and gentle warm nature will be greatly missed.

"Our aroha and support goes to the Gordon whanau at this very sad time.''