Almanac Rugby League – Vale Noel Kelly: one of the greats and a true hard man of the code

Noel Kelly (Source: Commons)



They probably won’t admit it because they’re tough out Goodna way, but they’ll be crying in their beers this week after the death on the weekend of one of their greatest sons, Noel Kelly.


One of the code’s true hard men, Kelly gained, and deserved, a reputation as a fearsome player during his career in the 1950s and 60s. The reality that he was sent off about 20 times during his career gives credence to the claim! These included his dismissal after 90 seconds in a Test against New Zealand in 1967 and being sent off twice in the same match in a game on the French leg of the 1963 Kangaroo tour – he refused to leave the field both times and played out the match!


But Kelly was more than just a rugged player. He was named as hooker in the ARL’s Team of the Century, played 28 Tests for Australia, was selected for 3 Kangaroo tours, played 5 games each for Queensland and New South Wales, and 111 games for Wests Magpies. Together with Dud Beattie and Gary Parcell, Kelly formed the famous front row which represented Ipswich, Queensland and Australia in 1960. He was equally adept playing at prop or hooker. Playing in an era when scrums were ferociously contested, when forward play in general neither asked nor gave any quarter, and no-one took a backward step, Kelly was renown as one of the toughest tom play the game. No wonder his biography was titled Hard Man.


Off the field, Kelly was known as a genuine, warm, compassionate and generous man, equally at home in the highest circles or at the front bar. In giving back to the game, he was a founding member of the Men of League Foundation which assists those ‘within the rugby league community who are in genuine need and are unable to overcome that need within their own resources’.


Noel Kelly died on Sunday aged 84. He is survived by his wife Chris, his five children and six grandchildren.


Vale Noel Kelly. RIP.





Read more about Noel Kelly by clicking HERE and HERE.

View Noel Kelly’s full career statistics by clicking HERE.


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  1. Childhood memories of Kelly are all about the rough and tumble of rugby league in those days where every scrum was fiercely contested and, in general play, no quarter was asked or given. It is uplifting to read about Kelly’s contributions to the game in his later years through the Men of League Foundation. There are some great articles available to read on various internet sites and in the newspapers. Clearly, Noel Kelly was a man who touched many lives for the better.

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