Vale Mick Kelly
14 July 1933 – 27 August 2012
At the end of August, family and friends gathered at Pinegrove in Blacktown to farewell Mick Kelly. His involvement in rugby league had stretched for over 75 seasons. Born in Gunnedah and given the name Harold, it is thought that his older brothers and sister preferred the name Mick.
Growing up in the streets of Erskineville, Mick began his involvement with league at the age of four, a sand boy and ball boy for the club his older brothers played for, the Newtown Waratahs, Mick soon spent many seasons playing for them.
In the mid 1950’s, Mick was graded with the Newtown RLFC, The Mighty Bluebags. Here he played alongside the likes of Dick Poole, Gordon ‘Punchy’ Clifford, Tony Brown, Brian ‘Poppa’ Clay, and his brother Ray. Mick was part of the 1955 side that lost the grand final, 12-11, to South Sydney.
Mick left Newtown to play football in the Riverina. Here he captained-coached sides in Yenda, Narrandera and Harden-Murrumburrah. Football in those days was concerned with winning the Maher Cup, and in this Mick achieved success with Harden.
Mick returned to Sydney and became involved in the Parramatta District RLFC (now known as the Parramatta Eels). In 1964, he coached the third grade side that won the club its first ever premiership. He was 31 years old.
In 1967, Merv Cartwright convinced Mick to become a part of a new rugby league club at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the Penrith Panthers. Years later, Mick was awarded a Life Membership of the Panthers. In between, he undertook coaching roles with Penrith’s Jersey Flegg and President Cup teams. Many from these squads went onto to play grade football for the Panthers. Mick’s eldest son, Michael, played over 120 grade games for the Panthers. Mick also bought handy players from the bush to play grade for the Panthers. When he wasn’t involved in football at Penrith, Mick devoted his energies to sides in the Blacktown and St Marys areas.
In his 79 years, Mick was to make many friendships. Many of these came from his time and efforts invested in rugby league. Some have achieved much success in the code, but Mick treated everyone the same. Whether Kangaroo Tourist, or suburban club player, Mick greeted his friends with the same measure of warmth and cheekiness. Perhaps this is why many attended his funeral. People from the Panthers, the Riverina, members of the 1964 Parramatta Premiership side, and from his Newtown childhood, all paid their respects.
Mick is survived by his wife Marie, his sister Fay, his two sons, and two grandchildren.