‘Teak-hard’: the rugby league says goodbye to the great Bill Noonan, first Kiwi in a great Australian final

A former president of the New Zealand Rugby League says the late Bill Noonan, the first Kiwi to start a grand Australian final, lived up to his nickname “Teak-Tough.”

Noonan, who played for Canterbury Bankstown in the great 1974 final loss to the Sydney Roosters, died in Sydney at age 74 after living with dementia for a few years.

Canterbury-Bankstown Kiwi mainstay Bill Noonan attempts to get a kill against Balmain in 1971. Noonan has died in Sydney, aged 74.

Fairfax Media Archives / Getty Images

Canterbury-Bankstown Kiwi mainstay Bill Noonan attempts to get a kill against Balmain in 1971. Noonan has died in Sydney, aged 74.

While Noonan played just three tryouts for the Kiwis, many rugby league judges rated him among New Zealand’s top front-line exports after his 196-game run at Sydney’s highest grade.

Ray Haffenden, president of the NZRL from 2007 to 2009 and former manager of Kiwis, played for Christchurch’s Linwood club with Noonan before the big man’s departure for Australia in 1970.

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“Bill’s nickname in Australia was ‘Teak Tough,’ which was quite appropriate,” Haffenden said.

“It was very tough and uncompromising.”

Phil Young (left) and Bill Noonan using the weights at a Canterbury Bankstown team training session in 1973.

Grant Peterson / Fairfax Media / via Getty Images

Phil Young (left) and Bill Noonan using the weights at a Canterbury Bankstown team training session in 1973.

Noonan helped pave a way for Kiwis to cross Tasman to play their trade in Sydney’s first grade competition, then and now the best rugby league club competition in the world.

The NZRL took a hard line on players joining the Australian club, banning their departure until former Kiwis and Canterbury hooker Gary Blackler challenged the edict in the latter half of the 1960s.

Under increasing pressure, the NZRL relaxed the ban in 1969, establishing a scale of fees for players ranging from $ 1,000 for club players to $ 6,000 for Kiwi internationals.

That allowed the ‘Berries’ of Canterbury Bankstown to pounce on Noonan, who had traveled Australia with the Kiwis when he was 20 years old in 1967, winning a trial limit. He played twice against the Kangaroos in 1969, scoring a try from the second row in the Kiwis’ second test victory in the 18-14 series at Carlaw Park.

New Zealand rugby league historian and journalist John Coffey wrote in The press In 2000 the legendary Canterbury Bankstown secretary, Peter ‘Bullfrog’ Moore, “had come to Christchurch in search of scrum half Kiwis Graeme Cooksley. But he went home with Noonan’s signature on his pocket, the deal made at the old Railway Cafe on Manchester Street, and he was rewarded with nine years of excellent service from the Linwood rower. ”

Haffenden understood that Moore, in making his first signing for Canterbury, was alerted to Noonan’s potential by Kiwis coach Lory Blanchard, a former Linwood favorite.

Bill Noonan, training at Canterbury's Belmore Oval in 1974, the year in which he made history as New Zealand's first Grand Finalist in Sydney.

Fairfax Media Archives / via Getty Images

Bill Noonan, training at Canterbury’s Belmore Oval in 1974, the year in which he made history as New Zealand’s first Grand Finalist in Sydney.

A precocious talent, Noonan made his first grade debut at Linwood as a teenager and represented Canterbury and the South Island at age 18 in 1965.

Playing his early football as a hooker, he switched to mainstay in 1967 and was selected for that year’s Kiwis tour of Australia, again playing a vital role on Linwood’s prime minister’s winning team at Canterbury in 1968.

Haffenden said Noonan was built for the front row of rugby league. “His father, Pat, was a Linwood stalwart, a railroad worker and a strong man, and Bill had that build. He had a body like a Greek god.”

Noonan initially worked in retail, at a counter at Farmer’s department store, but was as tough as anyone else, his game an amalgamation of pace, physical activity, and fitness.

“When you were playing Bill, you had to be careful when making a tackle because if you went low and Bill went high, both you and the opposing player would get hurt,” Haffenden recalled. . ”

Noonan, who was still 22 when he made his move in Sydney, never played for the Kiwis again after leaving for Sydney, something Haffenden feels was a mistake. “He should have had a lot more tests than he had, he just would have kept getting better.”

The climax of his Canterbury Bankstown career came in 1974 when he became the first New Zealander to race to the Sydney Cricket Ground for a grand finale in New South Wales. The Kiwi’s opposite number in the Eastern Suburbs second row was Australian Rugby League immortal Arthur Beetson, with another all-time great, Ron Coote, in the block. Kiwi test mainstay Henry Tatana came off the Bulldogs ‘bench, but the Easts won 19-4 against 57,214 fans, with Beetson pocketing one of the Roosters’ three attempts.

Noonan had 161 games for Canterbury, sometime serving as the team’s patron, until 1978 before being drawn to the Newtown Jets, backed by the flamboyant Sydney advertising executive, John Singleton.

in a Rugby league week In the 2009 interview, Noonan said he first told ‘Singo’: “Save your breath John, I’m not playing for Newtown.”

“He told me he would pay me $ 15,000 and I signed the next day. Money was not the only reason: John was a true entrepreneur and brought some quality players and a new professionalism to the club. “

Noonan found himself in a bind in his first season with Newtown in 1979 when he “got excited for a great game” against his former Bulldogs teammates. “I was sent off for a high shot, I can’t remember who I hit, but I didn’t miss him,” he said. Rugby league week. “They left me and the judiciary gave me four weeks. I was not happy.”

At the end of the 1980 season, Noonan, then 33, ended a 16-year career as a senior, missing the Jets’ 1981 grand finale against the Parramatta Eels.

After hanging up his boots, Noonan returned to Christchurch for a short time, but then returned to Sydney with his wife.

While at home, he teamed up with former Linwood teammates on a tap team, but found it difficult to resist the urge to tackle. “In the end, Bill told us, ‘Guys, I’m going to have to give this up because I’m going to hurt someone,’” Haffenden said.

Noonan’s battle with dementia became public in 2016 when his former Canterbury club and the Men of League Foundation hosted a luncheon that raised more than $ 100,000 for his trust fund, administered by the foundation.

The Bulldogs started the trust fund with $ 25,000 as a tribute to their former warrior.

Noonan made headlines in Sydney in 2018 when she disappeared from a Randwick dementia care unit.

Their later find led to strong support from the Sydney rugby league community, a measure of the mark that pioneer Kiwi left on Tasmania.

Noonan’s passing was noted on the social media sites of Bulldogs fan groups, with Kennel Bulldogs Noting: “Noonan will be remembered as a forceful forward and a true gentleman of the game who always gave his all and our condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”

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