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Regarded as one of the finest NSW centres to never play for Australia, Newtown Jets' Bob Keyes has passed away after a short illness. He was 79.

Keyes played four games for NSW in 1964 – two off the bench as St George greats and Immortals Graeme Langlands and Reg Gasnier had the centre spots sewn up mostly – as they did in Test football too.

“Bob Keyes and Brian Moore, or ‘Chicka’ as Newtown fans knew him better, were the absolute idolised centre pairing in the 1960s,” Jets director Glen Dwyer told

“Arguably they would have been the best club centres pairing in the NSWRL first grade for a number of years, although I suspect Dragons fans would nominate Reg Gasnier but he had a number of different centre partners.

“But many people have said to me that Bob Keyes and Brian Moore were unlucky not to have been born in another country, because if they’d been from New Zealand or England or France, they would have been regular Test centres – they were that good.

“Bob had a beautiful, gliding running style and was a very clever ball player.”

Keyes played two seasons with Eastern Suburbs (1960-61) and then the next nine with Newtown in a career spanning a decade.

He played 169 games for the Jets from 1962-1970 and captained the side many times.

Moore died in 2014 but he and Keyes’ extended partnership in the centres is the stuff of Jets folklore.

“I once heard it described as Bob Keyes being the rapier – the one who was the very fine sharp-edged sword – and ‘Chicka’ was the broad sword,” Dwyer said.

“That’s because Bob would create the neatest of gaps for a teammate to slice through while ‘Chicka’ was a big centre with tremendous strength who would burst onto a pass and create the gap himself.

“They were Newtown’s trump card for years.”

The NSWRL extends its sincere condolences to the Keyes family and friends.

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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