Vale John McMartin

Born 3 March 1944. Passed away 13 February 2018

Men of League Foundation member number: 2,975

John McMartin passed away at his home in Dural on Tuesday 13 February aged 73. An easy going and humble man, he represented City Firsts at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 17 May 1975 and four days later, was a member of the NSW team which took on Queensland at Brisbane’s Lang Park.

Born at Allawah in Sydney, John and his family moved to Kurrajong in the foothills of the Blue Mountains when he was eight years of age. As a student of Richmond High School, he quickly became a prominent rugby league player and in 1964, he was a key member of the Richmond team which won the Parramatta A grade Premiership.

The next year, he played some pre-season games with Wests but Parramatta insisted he and his twin brother Mal, play with the Eels, as they were local juniors. In that 1965 season the twins were given just five games between them and as reserves were given permission to play with the Richmond club, when not required by Parramatta. The brothers cemented a place in grade in 1966 and in early 1967, John replaced 1960 Test hooker, Bill Rayner, in first grade.

His first try in the top grade came against Cronulla at Sutherland Oval on 22 April 1967. One of the best ball winning hookers of his era, John went on to play 167 first grade games in nine seasons with the Eels. A contract dispute led to him joining Cronulla in 1976 when he probably became the first Australian rugby league player to have a third party agreement. A local businessman paid $10,000 of his contract when he joined the Sharks.

In four seasons at Cronulla, he played 92 first grade games, including the 1978 Grand Final against Manly. This Grand Final finished at 11-all and Manly won the replay just three days later. John missed the replay because of an injury in the Grand Final.

In his book, Immortal and Team of the Century member, John Raper, described John as one of the best hookers he had ever seen, just behind Ken Kearney.

After retiring, John coached the Sharks third grade team for a couple of seasons, before working and coaching in Tertiary Rugby League for 31 years. He is a former Australian Universities coach and won at least one University World Cup. He was Chairman of the NSW Students Rugby League for several years.

Recognised throughout our game for his work, John was a Life Member of six Rugby League bodies. These are the NSWRL, Parramatta RLFC, Cronulla RLFC, Australian Tertiary Rugby League, NSW Tertiary Rugby League and the Northwest Polecats RLFC. He was chuffed when he received a letter from the Prime Minister in 2000, informing him that he was being awarded an Australian Sports Medal for services to Rugby League.

John’s twin, Mal, was also a good first grade player and finished with 102 first grade matches with Penrith, Balmain and Parramatta.

John is survived by his wife of 50 years, Kathy, his daughters, Angela and Jennifer and his brothers Mal and Laurie and three much loved grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at 10:00 AM on Wednesday 21 February at the Allan Drew Heritage Chapel, 221 Old Northern Road, Castle Hill, with the wake at the Dural country club. Details of the service can be confirmed in both the Telegraph and Herald this Saturday 17 February.

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