The NSWRL is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Rugby League icon, Don Furner Senior.
Furner, the inaugural coach of Canberra Raiders who had an illustrious career as a player, coach and administrator, passed away on Monday night (24 February) following a long battle with illness.
“Don Furner Senior made an enormous contribution to the game of Rugby League over a number of decades,” NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden said.
“He had a huge impact on the game in regional NSW, represented Australia and later coached ‘The Unbeatables’ Kangaroos tour of 1986, and guided the Sydney Roosters and Canberra to Grand Finals.
“He will be sorely missed, leaves a strong legacy and the NSWRL would like to pass on our deepest condolences to his many family and friends.”
Born in Condobolin in 1932, Furner moved to Sydney with his family as a young boy and played with several clubs in the Balmain area before graduating to Balmain’s President Cup team in 1951.
He would go on to play for several clubs across NSW and Queensland and in 1960 acted as captain-coach in guiding Tumbarumba to a Group 20 premiership and two more Grand Finals.
He joined Junee as captain-coach in 1964, winning the prestigious Maher Cup and leading the club to its first premiership victory (Group 9).
He moved to Queanbeyan United in 1965 where he was captain-coach in 1965-66 and non-playing coach 1967-69. He led the club to five grand finals and three premierships.
Forced to retire through injury, he embarked on a highly successful coaching career, taking Eastern Suburbs to a Grand Final in 1972 before joining a push for Canberra to be admitted to the NSWRL.
He was subsequently named Head Coach when the Raiders entered the competition in 1982 and took the team to its first Grand Final alongside co-coach Wayne Bennett in 1987.
Don Furner Senior is survived by sons, Don and David, who have also made significant contributions to Rugby League.