True Blues Ken Kearney, Ricky Stuart and Harry Wells were tonight inducted into the NSWRL The Star Hall of Fame during the annual True Blues dinner at The Star Event Centre in Pyrmont.
In a glittering ceremony in front of almost 500 guests, Kearney, Stuart and Wells were inducted as the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues were officially presented before Game One of the Ampol State of Origin series at Accor Stadium in Sydney on Wednesday 8 June.
“The True Blues dinner provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge our proud history and the wonderful contribution of all players who have pulled on the sky blue jumper with distinction,” NSWRL Acting Chairman John Anderson said.
“The three players inducted tonight - Ken Kearney, Ricky Stuart and Harry Wells – represented their state with plenty of passion and deserve their place in our Hall of Fame.
“It was also great to see the team officially presented and I’m confident they will give a good account of themselves for Game One in front of our loyal fans in Sydney as we loom to maintain our recent Origin success.”
Kearney is credited as being the brains behind the historic run of 11 consecutive premierships for the St George Dragons from 1956-66.
Originally starting his career in the rival code, Kearney switched to Rugby League in England before heading home to Australia.
He brought with him a ruthless professionalism that he had learned overseas and led the Dragons to six consecutive premierships from 1956-61 (1956 as captain; 1957-61 as captain-coach). He also played 17 games for NSW and represented Australia in 31 Tests from 1952-58.
Stuart was a mercurial halfback who helped turn the Canberra Raiders into a premiership force after winning titles in 1989-90 and 1994.
His torpedo passes and pinpoint kicking game proved a nightmare for opponents and he was also an influential player at representative level.
He played nine Tests for Australia (1990-94), including a memorable moment in the second Test in 1990 where he threw the match-winning pass for Mal Meninga. He also played 14 games for NSW and was part of the first NSW Blues team which won three consecutive series from 1992-94.
Stuart turned to coaching after a recurring knee injury ended his playing career and won a premiership in his first season with the Sydney Roosters (2002). He also coached the Blues three times (2005, 2011-12), winning a series in his first year.
Wells was a robust centre who used his speed, bulk and power to devastating effect. He came from Wollongong to play for South Sydney in 1951 and tasted immediate success after playing on the wing in the Grand Final win over Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
He returned home to Wollongong where he made his state and national representative debuts before returning to Sydney to play six seasons with the Western Suburbs Magpies from 1956.
He represented NSW on 35 occasions from 1952-61 and formed a formidable centre pairing for Australia with Reg Gasnier. Wells played out the remainder of his career in the country, eventually retiring in 1972 at the age of 40.
The NSWRL The Star Hall of Fame inductees includes the seven Immortals who have represented NSW and 16 other players who represented their state with distinction.
The qualification for the NSWRL The Star Hall of Fame is:
a) The player must have played 10 games or more for NSW; or, alternatively, the player must have captained NSW; AND
b) The player must have also played for Australia: AND
c) The player must also have been retired for at least five seasons.
2021 NSWRL The Star Hall of Fame Inductees
Year inducted: 2022
True Blue number: 451
Born: May 3, 1924, Penrith, NSW
Club: St George Dragons
Premiership career: (1952-61) 156 games, 18 tries
First Grade debut (Australia): St George Dragons v Western Suburbs Magpies at Kogarah Oval on March 29, 1952
Representative honours: Australia 31 Tests (1953-58); NSW 17 interstate matches (1953-58)
Other honours: NSWRL Player of the Year 1956; NRL Hall of Fame 2008
Year inducted: 2022
True Blue number: 826
Origin number: 102
Born: January 7, 1967, Queanbeyan, NSW
Clubs: Canberra Raiders, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Premiership career: (1988-2000) 243 games; Canberra Raiders (1988-98), 203 games, 39 tries, 7 goals, 25 field goals, 195 points; Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (1999-00), 40 games; 2 tries, 2 field goals, 10 points
First Grade debut: Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos at Lang Park, Brisbane on May 22, 1988
Representative honours: Australia 9 Tests (1990-94); NSW 14 Origins
Other honours: Dally M Player of the Year 1993; NRL Hall of Fame 2018
Year inducted: 2022
True Blue number: 445
Born: May 8, 1932, Wollongong, NSW
Clubs: South Sydney Rabbitohs, Western Suburbs Magpies
Premiership career: (1951) South Sydney Rabbitohs, 6 games; Western Suburbs Magpies, 86 games (1956-61)
First Grade debut: South Sydney Rabbitohs v Western Suburbs Magpies at the SCG on April 28, 1951
Representative honours: Australia 37 Tests (1952-60); NSW 35 interstate matches (1952-61)
Other honours: NRL Hall of Fame 2008