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The New South Wales Rugby League has paid tribute to Rugby League legend Noel Kelly, who passed away earlier today.

“Noel Kelly was one of the finest players of an era full of champions, but more than that he was a gentleman who enjoyed the respect of every part of the rugby league community,” NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden said.

“The game has lost a true warrior whose performances are already part of Rugby League folklore.”

Renowned and respected for his skill and toughness on the field, ‘Ned’ Kelly was just as much a legend off the paddock through his media work on the television show “Controversy Corner”, as well as his coaching career and his work for the Men of League charity organization.

Originally from Goodna, Kelly moved to Ipswich and from there graduated to state and international honours.

By the time he moved to Western Suburbs in Sydney he was an established star and was at the forefront of the Magpies’ challenge as they made three consecutive Grand Finals between 1961-63, only to finish runner up on each occasion.

He went on to play for Wests for over a decade and record more than 100 appearances for the club, although injury and numerous send offs – he always said that he learned quickly the best policy was “retaliate first” - impacted on his career.

Kelly played six games for NSW and made three Kangaroo Tours and played 28 Test matches for his country. After he finished at Wests he spent a year with Wollongong, before coaching North Sydney and a Sydney representative team which toured New Zealand in 1976.

Kelly was named in the National Rugby League's Hall of Fame, made the ‘Team of the Century' and was named among the ‘100 Greatest Players over the first century of the game’ by the ARL in 2008. He was also named captain and hooker of Wests Magpies Team of the Century in 2004.

Despite his tough approach to the game, he was also a man with a big heart after being a founding member of the Men of League Foundation.

“Noel Kelly thoroughly deserves his legendary status in every aspect of the game and the NSWRL would like to pass on our sincere condolences to his wife Chris, his family and his friends,” Trodden said.