Vale – Merv Lees
Born 1 November 1932, Passed Away 11 May 2018
Merv passed away on Friday, 11 May, aged 85. At his peak, he was regarded as one of our game’s best centres, representing New South Wales in five matches and winning a Premiership with St. George.
He began playing rugby league with the Banksia Waratahs as a boy and came into grade with the Dragons in the early 1950s. He made his First Grade debut in July 1953 and scored his first First Grade try against Balmain at Leichhardt Oval on 11 July 1953. In five, first grade seasons with St. George, Merv finished with 35 tries from his 56 first grade games. At the Sydney Cricket Ground on 24 July 1954, he finished with five tries in the 34-26 win over North Sydney.
The try scoring centre played the first of his five matches for NSW at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground on 23 June 1954, scoring a try in the 46-7 win over Queensland. He played his second match against the Queenslanders just three days later, at the Brisbane Cricket Ground in the 26-21 win. Just two weeks after this, he was in the NSW centres for the match against Great Britain at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 10 July 1954. This game will be long be remembered, as referee, Aub Oxford, abandoned it with 24 minutes to play. This is the only international Rugby League match to be abandoned and it was played a week before the series deciding third Test. There was constant brawling and niggling tactics, as the British side wanted to upset the key Australian players for the coming Test. NSW were leading 17-6 when referee Oxford left the field and Merv had scored two of NSW’s three tries.
A broken collarbone after just 13 minutes in the 1956 Grand Final at the SCG on 8 September, against Balmain, meant Merv had to leave the field and in the days of no replacements, St. George had to play most of the game with 12 men. But they did this, winning 18-12 in the first of their 11 successive Grand Final victories. He also played in the losing 1953 Premiership decider against South Sydney, scoring one of St. George’s two tries.
Merv is survived by his son Matt and daughter Shelley, along with three grandchildren. His funeral will be held at 1pm on Thursday 17 May, at Woronora Memorial Park, Linden Street Sutherland in the South Chapel.
Rest In Peace, Merv.