Balmain, Kangaroos Test great Keith Barnes dies aged 89

George Clarke |

Former Balmain players including Keith Barnes (right) at Leichardt Oval in 2004.
Former Balmain players including Keith Barnes (right) at Leichardt Oval in 2004.

Balmain Tigers great Keith Barnes has been celebrated as one of rugby league’s greatest ever players after his death at the age of 89.

Barnes, who was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2007, was a previous Australian Test captain and represented the Kangaroos in 17 Tests. 

Born in South Wales before moving to Australia in his teens, Barnes was renowned as a fullback with a brilliant goalkicking ability, which earned him the nickname “Golden Boots”. 

The grandstand at Balmain’s spiritual home of Leichhardt Oval was renamed in Barnes’ honour in 2009.

The move was done to recognise Barnes’ efforts for the Balmain club, where he scored 1519 points as a player across 194 games, before serving as coach and later as an administrator. 

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

“A wonderful goalkicker and prolific point scorer, 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.”