VALE Noel ‘Ned’ Kelly – Magpie 595 (1961)
1936 – 2020.
Noel receiving his OAM in 2018.
Wests Magpies are saddened to learn of the passing of another much loved Magpie
Noel Kelly OAM
Noel with a photo of his Famous namesake.
Noel Kelly was much more than an outstanding Rugby League player.
He was a much-loved husband, father and grandfather, as well as being cherished and highly respected by his numerous friends and acquaintances.
He was one of the few people to whom the word legend really applied.
Noel at his 80th birthday party.
A genuine, compassionate and friendly man, Noel always had time for anyone of all ages, both sexes and from all walks of life.
He was equally at home with a high ranking politician as he was with a labourer at the bar.
He cared for people and over his 84 plus years helped many individuals and also groups.
Noel catching up with Bunny Reilly and Ron Pomering.
Born at Ipswich hospital, he grew up at nearby Goodna, 27 km south-west of Brisbane.
Noel played junior football with Goodna and began his grade football with Ipswich Brothers, before playing with Ayr in North Queensland.
In 1957 and 1958, he was a member of the Ipswich Bulimia Cup-winning team and on 27 May 1959, made his debut for Queensland in the 17-15 win over NSW at the Exhibition ground.
He played three matches against NSW in 1959 with Queensland winning all three and another against the touring Kiwis. In 1960 he played two more games for Queensland against NSW and one against France, finishing with a total of seven games for the Maroons.
Noel playing for QLD in an all Ipswich front row.
At the SCG on 13 June 1959, he made his Test debut in a tight 9-8 win over New Zealand.
He played all three Tests against New Zealand in that series and then went away to England and France with the 1959 Kangaroos.
Noel Kelly——– Butcher.
Six Queenslanders in the Touring party.
Back Row: Elton Rasmussen , Jim Paterson
Front Row : Barry Muir, Dud Beattie, Noel Kelly and Gary Parcell.
He also toured with the 1963 Kangaroos and in 1967 became the first forward to make three Kangaroo tours.
Noel also went to England with the Australian team for the 1960 World Cup.
The last of his 28 Tests was against France at Toulouse on 7 January 1968. He scored one try each against Great Britain, France and New Zealand, while he played 16 Tests at hooker and 12 in the front row. Noel played nine Tests against both Great Britain and France, eight against New Zealand and two against South Africa in 1963.
Altogether, including his 28 Tests, he represented Australia in 72 matches.
In 1961, Noel moved to Sydney to join the Wests Magpies.
Where he played 111 first grade games in his nine seasons including three successive Grand Finals from 1961.
Noel getting ready for the 1962 Grand Final
Noel far right behind Arthur Summons running onto the SCG in 1963
L to R. Chow Hayes, Jack Gibson, Kel O’Shea, Denis Meaney, Noel Kelly, Jazza.
L to R. Kevin Smyth, PD, Gil Mc Dougall, Arthur Summons, Podgy Mc Guinness, Irish Malone, Don Parish.
He captain/coached the Magpies from 1966 for four seasons.
Wests in 1967.
Noel talking to the team before the 1969 preseason Final against Souths.
Noel in 1969 always trying to off load the ball.
Represented NSW in six matches and played two games for City Firsts.
Noel coaching kids at Lidcombe Oval in 1969.
His last year as a player was as captain/coach of Wollongong in 1970.
Noel realising it could be a LONG season.
He then coached North Sydney for four seasons from 1973 and coached a Combined Sydney team on a New Zealand tour in 1978.
Life as a North Sydney coach was not easy.
They did win occasionally.
One of his most memorable Tests was at Swinton on 9 November 1963 when Australia beat Great Britain 50-12 in the second Test of the series.
Noel playing in the famous Swinton Massacre in 1963.
He scored one of Australia’s 12 tries in this game.
Same try different angle.
Following the 28-2 win in the first Test, the second Test victory meant that the 1963 team was the first all Australian team to win the Ashes in England.
England second-rower Bill Ramsay lies unconscious after an altercation with Kelly during the second Test match played in Brisbane in 1966.
Australia 6 beat England 4.
One of the toughest men to play the game, Noel was sent off 17 times, but several of these were from scrum infringements.
Noel chatting to the referee.
During his career, the scrums were a real contest.
In 2008, Noel was named as the hooker in the Australian Team of the Century and also as one of Australia’s greatest 100 players. He has won many awards and accolades over the years and these include an Australia Day Ambassador for 10 years, Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
Life Member of the SCG and the Wests Magpies.
As well as being a popular and intelligent member of the Channel 7 Sports Action programme.
The very popular CONTROVERSY CORNER.
Col Pearce, Alan Clarkson, Rex Mossop, Ferris Ashton and Noel.
Noel was passionate about the Men of League organisation from its beginning and was a Founding Board Member (2002-2014), a Welfare Committeeman and Officer (2002-2014) and a Life Member.
Noel was Patron of the Northern Sydney Men of League Committee.
Noel Kelly OAM receiving his Honorary Life Membership of the Men of League in 2016.
The award for the Wests Tigers best forward each year is called the Noel Kelly Medal.
Noel and his wife, Chris, who was a local Ipswich girl, were married for 63 years.
Noel has remained very close to the club he loved so much today, attending many Pratten Park Magpies player reunions and featuring in Heritage Nights and game day events at all levels.
Natalie, Chris and Noel Kelly at a Wests Heritage Night 2015.
Noel and Tommy Raudonikis.
Ken Bray and Noel. Ken was the fullback in the 1962 Wests GF team.
Noel Kelly and Tony Ford at the Enfield Feds Team of the Century 2019.
Alan Davidson and Noel Kelly at a Wests Cricket day held at Pratten Park.
Carl Ross, Ernie Hills and Noel at a interview day for the PPM website.
John Elford, Noel and Harry Wells at the 2019 PPM reunion.
The 1959 Kangaroo Touring Party.
* Harry Wells and * Noel Kelly 60 years earlier.
Noel’s accolades include:
Men of League Foundation:
Founding Board Member, 2002-2014.
Welfare Committee Member/Officer, 2002-2014.
Life Member, since 2016.
National Rugby League (Australian Rugby League Commission):
Member/Player, international tours, 1967; 1963, and 1959; 26 matches.
Member / Player, 1960 World Cup.
Member/Player, Queensland and NSW.
Western Suburbs Rugby League Club – Wests Ashfield Leagues Club:
Player, 1961-1969; Grand Final in 1961, 1962 and 1963.
Member, Pratten Park Magpies (past player association), 2020.
Captain-Coach, Wests Premiership Team, four years. 1966 to 1969.
Player, Mentor and Coach, 1970-1980s.
Coach, North Sydney Bears, 1973-1976.
Coach, Wollongong, one season.
Life Member, Sydney Cricket Ground.
Australia Day Ambassador, 10 years.
Past Commentator, Channel Seven, Sports Action program.
Awards and recognition includes:
Hooker, Australian Rugby League ‘Team of the Century'; and named among the ‘100 Greatest Players over the first century of the game’, ARL, 2008.
Australian Rugby League Team of the Century.
Captain and Hooker, Wests Magpies Team of the Century, 2004.
Annual award for the best forward at the Wests Tigers Club is named the Noel Kelly Medal in his honour.
Recipient, Australian Sports Medal, 2000.
Below is the heartfelt VALE that Roy Masters has written in honour of Ned.
Thank you to Roy Masters and the Sydney Morning Herald for permission to use this Vale to Noel Kelly.
Finally, age did to Noel ‘Ned’ Kelly what English stiff arms, Kiwi fists and French feet could not. Kelly, aged 84, died at his northern beaches home on Sunday, almost a month after suffering the gang tackle of a heart attack, a stroke, kidney failure and a gall bladder infection.
Yet, following the stroke – on the same May weekend his former Magpies and Australian captain, Arthur Summons, died – Ned rallied.
He began speech therapy, ostensibly to communicate with doctors but probably to order wife Chris, his partner of 60 years, to get him out of hospital. Safely home for his final weekend, no longer cranky, she offered him a kiss and he puckered up.
Ned was a curious mixture: combustible, yet caring; explosive but empathetic. A front-rower/hooker in the Australian, Queensland and Magpies Teams of the Century, he was also awarded an OAM, partly for his care of hospitalised former players.
He was sent off 17 times, including twice in a 1964 game in France. He thought the referee would not notice him sneaking back on.
It was a record almost equalled by the number of times he broke his nose – 16.
Sometimes, the send-offs and smashed noses were a case of mistaken identity, demonstrating he could take it as well as give it.
He holds the record for the quickest Test match send-off – 90 seconds into the second Test of the 1967 series against New Zealand – when he flattened prop Robin Orchard in retaliation for felling Australian five-eighth Johnny Gleeson.
It wasn’t the last punch he threw that day in Brisbane. Entering the unattended Australian dressing room, he found a thief working through his teammates’ belongings and thumped him.
Ned reported for the medical before the third Test fully clothed, presenting only his left hand for inspection.
After returning to his native Queensland in 1959 from the first of his three Kangaroo tours, Ned moved to Ayr, assuming he would be captain coach of the town’s team. However, he was told he had accepted the position of captain-coach of the group, rotating through all eight sides, week by week.
“What happens in the grand final?” he asked.
“You get the week off,” he was told.
At the end of that season, Jimmy Sharman, of the famous Showground tent boxing family, signed Ned to Western Suburbs on a beer coaster in the Burdekin hotel.
Sharman, a fullback, had played 68 first grade games for Wests from 1934-39, before going into the family business and had witnessed Ned “going a round or two for a pound or two”.
Ned, Chris and their young baby set off on the journey south, driving through the night in a rusted utility, fearful on every hill that his foot would drive the accelerator though the vehicle’s floor.
They were met at Hornsby by club secretary Bill Beaver, and once again the football offer and reality did not match.
The Burdekin beer coaster had committed Wests to finding him accommodation and a job, yet neither had been arranged.
So, Ned worked, as he once told me, “as a butcher, a bouncer, on the amusement pier at Manly, and played for Wests all at the same time.
“I got £1,100 for my first football contract (in 1961) and £1,400 for my last (in 1969).”
But those deals allowed him to buy a house at Collaroy for £3,200, equivalent to three years of football earnings – an arguably similar index to today.
Kelly played 111 games for the Magpies, including three losing grand finals (1961-63), and captain-coached the club from 1966-69 for a 51 per cent winning record. One committeeman, Jack Neill, let it be known around the bar he thought Ned was an ordinary coach. Ned bailed him up, saying, “You’ve been telling everyone I’m a shit of a coach.” A terrified Neil stammered, “I.. I.. I only told a few blokes.”
But Norths were happy to employ Ned as coach (1973-76) with the Bears’ secretary, Harry ‘Acker’ Forbes, famously nominated him for coach of a Combined Sydney team touring New Zealand, using the immortal words, “I’m throwing Ned’s ring into the hat” for the job.
As Wests ex-players and coaches consider the first club reunion without Ned leading a mini-bus of Magpies across from Silvertail territory, there is, perhaps, one comforting thought: Ned is no longer suffering his terrible tinnitus.
“My head seems as if it is beside a band saw all the time,” he once told me, although Chris said he complained less about it, as recent afflictions burdened him. “I’ve said to the doctors, ‘Make me deaf’ and they say it would make no difference. ‘You’d still hear it’.”
“It quietens me down unless some bastard cuts me off in the traffic. That sets me off. I should travel around with a big sign in my car saying, ‘Don’t Cut Me Off.'”
Yet the end was peaceful, surrounded by Chris, his five children, grandchildren and the sounds from his aviary of beautiful birds singing him to merciful silence.