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Balmain Tigers legend Keith Barnes turns 87 today but what do you get a Rugby League player who is renowned as one of the finest goal-kickers the game has ever produced?

It’s a question that even stumped Balmain Tigers Football Club chairman Dr Leslie Glen, who said it was hard to buy for a man who already has a stand named in his honour at Leichhardt Oval.

“But he is such a giant of our club and our game that it’ll have to be a really big birthday cake,” Dr Glen told

“He is the most admirable man I know. Keith has well-earned the title of being a Rugby League legend.”

Dr Glen will visit Barnes, nicknamed ‘Golden Boots’, for his special day, with the Balmain board of directors asking him to pass on their gratitude for all he did for the club.

The skilful fullback set points-scoring records in each of the 14 seasons he played for the Tigers from 1955-1968.

“He represented our club with such distinction,” Dr Glen said.

“The only regret as I see it was that unfortunately the year after he retired, the Tigers won the premiership in 1969.

“That was disappointing for all the people who supported him.”

Barnes kicked 742 goals for the club and scored 11 tries during his 194 games for the club. He also played 13 games and kicked 66 goals for NSW; and played 19 Tests (71 goals) for Australia which included a stint as captain-coach.

Following his retirement, he served as the Chief Executive of the Tigers and was later selected in both the Team of the Century for Balmain and Wests Tigers. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1996 and was inducted into the ARL/NRL Hall of Fame in 2007.

“The quality of the man is outstanding,” Dr Glen said.

Barnes is also extremely humble with Dr Glen recounting how overwhelmed he felt when the Balmain club decided to dedicate the grandstand at Leichhardt Oval to him in June 2009.

“He is the most modest of men,” Dr Glen said.

“He was almost embarrassed when all that was being planned.

“We managed to get him to turn up for the ceremony, but we almost had to drag him there.”

There will be another good-sized crowd at this Saturday’s 87th birthday celebrations – and perhaps a beer or champagne or two downed with the toasts.

“It might be a light ale at this time of our lives,” Dr Glen said.