‘The original golden boot’ and Balmain Tigers great Keith Barnes dies, age 89

Apr 08, 2024
A sea of tributes from the rugby league community poured in following Barnes' passing, many reflecting on both his on-field brilliance and the "great person" he was off the field. Source: Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS.

Balmain Tigers’ legend, Keith Barnes, is being honoured by the rugby league community for his remarkable sporting prowess following his passing at the age of 89.

Hailing from South Wales originally, Barnes embarked on a journey to Australia during his teenage years. There, he carved out a legendary career as a fullback, renowned not only for his remarkable goalkicking prowess but also for earning the moniker “Golden Boots”.

Inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2007, Barnes left a lasting mark on the sport. As a former Australian Test captain, he represented the Kangaroos in 17 Tests, showcasing his exceptional skills on the field.

In 2009, a grand gesture honoured Barnes’ legacy when the grandstand at Leichhardt Oval, the spiritual home of Balmain, was renamed in his honour.

This gesture reflected his significant contributions to the Balmain club, where he amassed 1519 points across 194 games as a player, later transitioning to roles as coach and administrator.

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chairman Peter V’landys AM was among the first to pay tribute to the late sporting icon.

“Keith was one of the greatest fullbacks the game has seen,” V’landys said.

“A wonderful goalkicker and prolific pointscorer, he was slight in stature but built with extraordinary courage.

“The stories of Keith’s skills but also importantly his leadership are renowned across the game, having captained the Kangaroos in 14 Test matches.

“Keith’s legend continued well after his playing career. He was instrumental in guiding so many of the game’s great players – particularly through his long association with Balmain.

”He was deservedly recognised for his contribution to the game with induction into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2007.

“On behalf of the Commission, I extend our sincerest condolences to Keith’s family, and all those who knew him.”

A sea of tributes from the rugby league community quickly followed, many reflecting on both his on-field brilliance and the “great person” he was off the field.

On Sunday, April 14, Wests Tigers will honour Barnes during their match against the Dragons at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

-with AAP.

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