A visit to Noel Kelly – One of Our Greatest Ever

Northern Sydney Committee Wellbeing Officers Norm Pounder and Ken Vessey recently called in to see Noel Kelly at the Royal North Shore Private Hospital, Sydney where he was recovering from a spinal operation a few days before. As you would expect he welcomed us with his usual brave face, had us laughing with him in no time at all, told us the operation was a success & but was still in some pain.
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Ned’s rugby league career and achievements read like no other and is worth repeating.

Noel Kelly Men of League Foundation

Image: Steven K Smith Photography

He was born on 22 January 1936 in Ipswich Hospital, QLD and grew up in Goodna, where he commenced playing in the junior rugby league for the Goodna Rugby League Club. He advanced quickly to the top team in the local Reserve Grade competition before playing in the Ipswich Competitions for the Railways Rugby League Club alongside Gary Parcell and Dud Beattie (both Australian Test representatives) and the Brothers RL Club in 1956. In 1958-1959 he played for the Ipswich Representative team which won the Bulimba Cup, 1959 and 1960 represented QLD against NSW before being selected, as a Hooker, in the Australian 1st Test team against New Zealand. Noel was subsequently selected for his 1st Kangaroo Tour of England.

In 1960 he signed up with the Ayr Rugby League Club for the sum of 800 Pounds as a Captain Coach for a season. Here Noel discovered that the five local rugby league clubs had pooled their monetary resources to acquire him and he was required to Captain Coach a different club each week.

He played more International matches in 1960 & as an established Kangaroo he moved to Sydney in 1961 to commence a marvelous career with the Western Suburbs Magpies Rugby League Club.

During the 1960’s he was a stalwart of the Magpies teams & played in the three unsuccessful Grand Finals against St.George in 1961, 1962 and 1963. In 1963 he returned to the Australian Team as a Prop Forward.

He was renowned for his no nonsense, rugged type of play and in his career he was sent off 17 times but Noel will tell you “most of the send-offs were for scrum offences not foul play”.

In 1963 he made his second Kangaroo Tour as a prop (Captain Ian Walsh was the hooker) and again in 1967 he made another Kangaroo Tour but as hooker. He became the first hooker/prop to be selected for 3 Kangaroo Tours. During his long career from 1958-1976, Noel played 8 games for QLD, 25 games for Australia, 6 Games for NSW, 111 games for Western Suburbs and coached Western Suburbs for 85 games and North Sydney Bears for 88 games.

Throughout his long and distinguished career he has been paid many accolades and honors including:
– joining the Men of League Foundation in 2002, as member number 18, going on to became a Board Member and an Ambassador plus many other very active roles
– in 2004 being named Captain/Hooker of the Western Suburbs Magpies Rugby League “Team of the Century”
– in 2008 being included in the list of Australia’s 100 Greatest Players from 1908 – 2007 to celebrate the Game’s Centenary Year in Australia
– in 2008 being named as hooker in the Australian Rugby League’s Team of the Century
– in 2008 being selected in the QLD Rugby League’s Team of the Century as a Hooker and
– having the Wests/Tigers Rugby League Club Best Forward Annual Award named the “Noel Kelly Medal”.

The stories of Noel’s good deeds and assistance he has given to members of the general community and in particular to members of the rugby league community, who are suffering under difficult circumstances are outstanding and endless. He is respected by all who have been fortunate enough to make his acquaintance.

He is now undergoing rehab at The Delmar Hospital, Dee Why and we wish him a speedy recovery.

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