New Zealand's most experienced rugby league international, John Rutherford (Jock) Butterfield, died in a Brisbane hospital at the weekend. He was 72.

Butterfield, who was inducted as a Legend of League in 2001, played 99 matches, including 36 tests, between 1954 and 1963.

Only Gary Freeman, Stephen Kearney and Ruben Wiki have exceeded his test tally but, with long tours a thing of the past, no one will threaten to overhaul his 99 appearances.

Although born and raised on the West Coast, Butterfield was first chosen for the Kiwis while playing for the Sydenham club in Christchurch.

He made his test debut at Greymouth's Wingham Park, scoring a try in the 20-14 second test win over Great Britain.

Butterfield was then a second-row forward but during the 1955-56 tour to Britain and France he switched to hooker, and there he stayed.

When the Kiwis beat the British in the third test at Leeds all three front rowers - Butterfield, Lory Blanchard and Henry Maxwell - were among the tryscorers, a unique occurrence at test level.

Butterfield returned to the West Coast in 1958 to work in the coal mines. His influence was immense in leading the Brunner club to a Thacker Shield victory and making his home province feared rivals even for mighty Auckland.

Renowned for his toughness in an era of unlimited tackles when forward packs slugged it out toe to toe and hookers needed shins of steel, Butterfield was also revered by his contemporaries as an outstanding ball player in close quarters.

He went on eight Kiwis tours, including the World Cup tournaments of 1954 in France, 1957 in Australia and 1960 in Britain, two long tours of Britain and France, and three trips to Australia.

After his international retirement, he played a season for Manly-Warringah before coaching New South Wales country club Leeton and Queensland clubs Mt Isa and Cloncurry.