Roy Alfred Roper (11 August 1923 – 14 September 2023) was a New Zealand rugby union player renowned for his tenure with the Taranaki Rugby Football Union and the national team, the All Blacks. His rugby career was both preceded and followed by distinguished service in the military and administrative capacities. Roper’s life was a testament to resilience and dedication, highlighted by his becoming the first former All Black to reach the age of 100.
Early Life and World War II Service
Born on 11 August 1923, Roy Roper’s early years would eventually be interrupted by World War II. During the war, he served overseas with the Royal New Zealand Navy. His athleticism and rugby skills were not left behind during his service years; he appeared in six matches for the New Zealand Services XV in England.
Roy Roper was a formidable three-quarter and represented Taranaki at the provincial level. His skills on the rugby field were honed through rigorous practice and competition, making him a standout player in the provincial leagues.
Roper’s rugby prowess led him to the national stage where he became a member of the legendary All Blacks from 1949 to 1950. During his time with the national team, he played in five international matches, all of them being internationals. His contributions to the All Blacks were significant, cementing his legacy in New Zealand rugby history.
After his active playing days, Roper continued to serve the rugby community by taking on an administrative role. He served as the treasurer of the Taranaki Rugby Football Union from 1952 to 1971. His long-term commitment to administrative duties emphasized his love for the sport and the community.
In 2019, following the death of Ron Elvidge, Roper became the oldest living All Black. He celebrated his 100th birthday on 11 August 2023, making him the first former All Black to reach this milestone. This significant event was not just a personal achievement but also a momentous occasion for the rugby community in New Zealand.
Death and Legacy
Roy Alfred Roper passed away a month after celebrating his 100th birthday, on 14 September 2023. His death marked the end of an era, but his legacy as a rugby player, war veteran, and centenarian lives on. Roper’s contributions to New Zealand rugby and his remarkable life journey make him an unforgettable figure in the annals of the sport and the nation.