Off the Wall

I was always taught that when someone passes on it you cannot say something nice about them then it's better to say nothing at all.

The death today of the former Australian and New South Wales Chairman, Kevin Humphreys, will inevitably focus some media attention on his spectacular demise as the game's most powerful leader more than a quarter of a century ago.

But the sum total of his achievements and his contribution to the greatest game of all substantially, in my view, outweighs the downside, for which he paid a very heavy price.

In many ways Kevin Humphreys was the architect of the modern game.


He is rightly credited as having implemented the State of Origin concept in the face of some entrenched and powerful opposition. He did so in partnership with my late friend, Ron McAuliffe, with whom he had an interesting relationship - and at times a turbulent one.

State of Origin has been an extraordinary success. It saved interstate football, and to an extent representative football. It also paved the way of the entry of a Queensland team, the Broncos, into the then NSWRL premiership.

He also presided over an expansion of the game in New South Wales, and drove professionalism.

My own experiences with Kevin Humphreys were divided into two parts.

Firstly, when he assumed the Presidency of the ARL and the NSWRL after the death of Bill Buckley, I got to know him well through my close association with Ron McAuliffe and the QRL.

While he could be as parochial as any of his predecessors he had the wider interest of the game at heart. He saw the lop sided NSW v Queensland annual series as a danger to the game's future - and helped implement a change to the format that would inevitably reduce the Blues dominance.

He also promoted the game in Papua New Guinea - in partnership with the late Sir James Jacobi - and gave the Kumuls international standing. He was also an advocate of a strong game in New Zealand.

He also drove corporate sponsorship and the strengthening of the game's financial base through television rights and generous sponsorship...largely by the tobacco industry.

Prior to assuming the top positions in the game he was the CEO at Balmain. His son Stephen is today holding that position at the Wests Tigers...and doing so in a way his father was proud of.

Kevin Humphreys did not suffer fools - gladly or otherwise. He made enemies in his decade as the game's most powerful administrator. His fall from grace, and all power, in 1983 made headlines that would rival what the Storm have "achieved" in the last week.

Those events were very damaging for the game...and his career in league ended virtually overnight.

That said, he was a powerful no nonsense leader, perhaps as feared as much as respected.

But he delivered the game real reforms we continue to benefit from today.

Notwithstanding the way his career ended, I trust the NRL will ensure his service, and his achievements, are honoured at the weekend's NRL fixtures.


May he rest in peace.

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