Wests Tigers player Benji Marshall (L) and former player Chris Heighington (R) with club legends Arthur Summons and Noel Kelly.
Wests Tigers player Benji Marshall (L) and former player Chris Heighington (R) with club legends Arthur Summons and Noel Kelly.

‘Treasure of the game’: Noel ‘Ned’ Kelly passes away

Legendary rugby league forward and team-of-the-century hooker Noel 'Ned' Kelly has passed away, aged 84.

He had been ill since suffering a heart attack last month, sadly on the same day his old Western Suburbs teammate Arthur Summons died.

Kelly played 111 games for the Wests Magpies in the 1960s in a career in which he was sent off a remarkable 17 times during the game's toughest era.

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Wests Tigers player Benji Marshall (L) and former player Chris Heighington (R) with club legends Arthur Summons and Noel Kelly.
Wests Tigers player Benji Marshall (L) and former player Chris Heighington (R) with club legends Arthur Summons and Noel Kelly.

He was once sent off just two minutes into a Test against New Zealand in 1967.

He toured England with the Kangaroos in 1959-60, 1963-64 and 1967-68 and played 25 Tests.

His first contract with the Magpies was signed on a beer coaster near his hometown of Ipswich.

Kelly was regarded one of the toughest and most popular players to wear the green and gold jersey.

 

Noel Kelly (jacket undone, tie) is a member of rugby league’s Team of the Century.
Noel Kelly (jacket undone, tie) is a member of rugby league’s Team of the Century.

 

Noel Kelly (frontrow, Wests jersey) wasn’t out of place among the game’s very best.
Noel Kelly (frontrow, Wests jersey) wasn’t out of place among the game’s very best.

He was awarded an OAM for his services to rugby league.

"Ned remains a treasure of the game," wrote legendary rugby league journalist Ian Heads in a feature when Kelly turned 80, "Around football he constructed a life built on simple things - love, hard work, fair treatment of his fellow human beings, friendship and good humour."

In retirement there have been few more admired figures in the game.

He regularly attended fundraisers and worked tirelessly for the Men of League foundation to help out footballers who had fallen on hard times.

 

Noel Kelly (ball) in action for Wests in 1969.
Noel Kelly (ball) in action for Wests in 1969.

 

Independent commission chairman Peter V'landys acknowledged Kelly's contribution to the game in a statement last night.

"Noel Kelly will forever be remembered as one of the game's all-time greats," V'landys said, "his loss will be felt throughout the rugby league community.

"On behalf of the game I send my condolences to Noel's family and friends.

"'Ned' as he was fondly known, was an uncompromising forward. As tough as they came, His send-off 90 seconds into the 1967 test again New Zealand will always remain part of our folklore."

 

Originally published as 'Treasure of the game': Noel 'Ned' Kelly passes away


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