HAPPY FRANK – A NEW ZEALAND RUGBY LEAGUE CHAMPION

Happy Frank - What you see is what you get - honesty and enthusiasm

Frank Endacott’s contribution to New Zealand rugby league is probably not fully appreciated by those who aren’t close to him.

Affectionately called “Happy Frank” because of his beaming cheerful smile, his enthusiasm and positive nature, he played rugby league in the days when in his words, “It was brutal. Survival of the toughest not the smartest, thank goodness those days are gone and the players a lot more protected.”

Now 74 years of age, Frank has finally pulled the pin on his official involvement in the game he loves after 66 years service either as a player, coach, administrator and player agent. Up until last year he was still coaching first grade in Christchurch but now his focus has shifted to a completely different sport but one he’s loving. He’s part owner in three pacers alongside champion Canterbury trainers Mark Purdon and Cran Dalgety.

Frank’s rugby league career began way back in 1955 as a seven year-old playing for Shirley, a club his dad Frank Snr helped set up. He played for Shirley until 15 and was one of three players from that club to make the New Zealand Schoolboys team which played Australia.

Most of his playing career was spent with Addington in Christchurch and finished with Hornby. He began as a stand-off, moved to the centres then into the forward pack and once he’d reached the front row, he reckoned it was time to stop playing and concentrate on coaching.

His ability to gel sides together and get them playing for each other, astute selections and his thorough understanding of the game led to success in every team he had. It began with Addington when they won the grand final for the first time in their 100 year-plus history. That success carried on when he had charge of the greatest Canterbury team of all-time. During the mid 1990s Canterbury beat Auckland for the first time in 32 years then repeated the dose for five years.

Frank was hired as part of the first New Zealand Warriors squad of players and coaches, looking after the reserve grade team, John Monie coaching the NRL side. On the Warriors first night at a packed out Mt Smart Stadium in 1995, the NRL side narrowly lost to the Brisbane Broncos, Frank’s second team were victorious against the Broncos reserve side.

One of Frank’s sons Shane also played for Canterbury and the New Zealand Warriors.

His ability to gel sides together and get them playing for each other, astute selections and his thorough understanding of the game led to success in every team he had.

Frank eventually replaced John Monie as NRL coach then progressed to the Kiwis where he had the most successful period in Kiwi Rugby League history.

Frank coached the Kiwis for seven years in 35 tests and the only team they ever lost to was Australia and three times during his reign the Kiwis beat a star-studded Kangaroos side.

He coached some of the world’s greatest rugby league players and named Quentin Ponga, Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones at the top of his list but said there were many others he could add to that list.

Frank Endacott’s contribution to New Zealand rugby league is probably not fully appreciated by those who aren’t close to him. Affectionately called “Happy Frank” because of his beaming cheerful smile, his enthusiasm and positive nature, he played rugby league in the days when in his words, “It was brutal.

He coached some of the world’s greatest rugby league players and named Quentin Ponga, Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones at the top of his list

A stint in the English Super League with Wigan Warriors brought more success to Frank as he guided the famous club to championship honours, beating St Helens in the decider. Wigan made the grand final that year as well, narrowly losing to St Helens and he was named British Super league coach of the year. He also worked for several years as a player agent.

His incredible contribution to rugby league has been acknowledged with several awards. He’s a life member of New Zealand and Canterbury Rugby League and in 2006 was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Years Honours awards.

He was given a Lifetime Achievements award by the Canterbury Sports Awards organisation and was twice named coached of the year at the Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Trust. In 2002 Franks biography, “Being Frank” was published and proved a big success.

 

Frank very kindly joined me for a chat on AbsolutelyFamous earlier this week, reminiscing about his illustrious career.

He gives a great insight to what it was like in the changing rooms after the Kiwis beat the Kangaroos, describing the scenes after the win he cherished most, the win in 1998, “One of the toughest tests I was involved with. We were down 6-12 to a great Australian side but came back to win narrowly 22-16. It was like a slaughter house in the dressing room afterwards, blood everywhere but one of the best feelings.”

It was like a slaughter house in the dressing room afterwards, blood everywhere but one of the best feelings.”

He’s also in no doubt why the Warriors struggle so much now to make the play-offs and he’s not surprised.

Listen in to this great chat and we thank Frank very much for his time and wish him all the best with his new endeavours in the horse racing game.

Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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