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.

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

Gordon was worked for Te Wananga o Aotearoa for the last 10 years, 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.

Although Tank was not Maori, his wish was to have a tangi. This will start today at the Taiwere Campus of Te Wananga o Aotearoa (on Malfroy Road, Rotorua)

  • doug fricker

    from the family that is surfers paradise rugby union club our thoughts are with the gordon family at this time, Tank was a great friend to us all over here.He made time to call on us when ever he came back for a holiday.Your up there now with some good mates Tank,Bob Sinclair,Bob Burness, Kev Weke,Murray Northover,Huppy Williams. at least theres a couple who can sing… your mate flipper

    • Rashelle Gordon

      Hi Doug,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I put
      Dads Surfers rugby pin in his pocket along with
      the other great clubs he was involved with.
      Surfers rugby club and people always stayed close
      to his heart.
      Love Rashelle x

  • Mitsy Strickland

    Words cannot express just how sad it is to know that we have lost another Rangatira. Tank was a mighty man and stood by many of us who were going through changing times at TWOA. In my opinion there weren’t that many who I would say stood up beside me in those challanging times. I will forever be grateful to the man who fought on my behalf, who believed in me and gave me the encouragement to carry on and not stop fighting for what I believe in.
    To the Gordon family, thank you for sharing your husband, father and koro with us all. My prayers and thoughts are with you at this time as you prepare to farewell your dad. May you find peace in everyone that draws near to support you and in each other and lastly to you Tank. May you sleep in Jesus until that beautiful morning when we all meet on that beautiful shore. Rest well our Rangatira xx from Mitsy Strickland(Brisbane, Australia)

  • Teddy Kewene

    R.I.P Frank! Gone far too early!