NRL News: Tribute pour in as Tigers and legend Keith ‘Golden Boots’ Barnes dies at 89


The rugby league world is in mourning after the death of Balmain Tigers legend Keith Barnes, who has passed away at the age of 89.

Barnes made 194 appearances for the Tigers over a 13-year span, including three Grand Finals, all of which were lost to the St George Dragons during their long string of Premierships.

Born in Wales, Barnes emigrated to Australia with his family and was raised in Wollongong, making his first steps in the game in the Illawarra region.

He played for Southern Districts and Country before signing with the Tigers in 1955, going straight into the first grade team and never leaving it.

He would set multiple records for pointscoring and, by the time of his retirement in 1968, Barnes was the highest pointscorer in NSWRL history with 1519, including 742 goals, earning him the nickname ‘Golden Boots’,

A fullback, he also represented NSW and Australia, managing 17 Tests and a World Cup win in 1957.

Barnes also led the Tigers in 1968 as captain-coach, retiring a year before their drought-breaking Premiership in 1969, and was later named in the Team of the Century for both the Balmain club and its successor, the Wests Tigers.

He was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2007, was listed as one of the 100 greatest players even in the 2008 centenary celebrations and had a grandstand at Leichhardt Oval named in his honour in 2009.

“Keith was one of the greatest fullbacks the game has seen,” said Australian Rugby League Commission chear 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.”

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