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St George rugby league legend Ken Kearney has passed away following a heart attack at his Gold Coast home yesterday. He was aged 82.
A ruthless professional and champion hooker, 'Killer' Ken Kearney instigated revolutionary coaching methods and was captain and coach during the St George Dragons' premiership reign that stretched for a world-record 11 years from 1956 to 1966.
His passing comes only weeks short of the 50th anniversary of his first grand final win, and the first of the 11 grand final victories, on September 8.
Kearney captained Saints to six grand final victories from 1956-61 and played in the 1953 grand final as captain-coach. He remained in the dual role until 1956 before Norm Tipping became coach with Kearney as captain in that premiership winning year. Kearney took back the captain-coach role in 1957.
A rugby union convert, Kearney served with the RAAF in World War Two before representing the Wallabies in seven Tests. He then switched to rugby league in 1948 whilst in England, playing with Leeds before returning home to Australia and linking up with St George in 1952.
A giant in the history of Australian rugby league, 'Killer' led by example captaining Australia in 1956-57 before a knee injury forced him into retirement in 1962.
During a remarkable career, Kearney also coached Parramatta from 1962-65 and the fledgling Cronulla club from 1967-68.
NRL CEO David Gallop today joined others in paying tribute to Kearney.
"Ken Kearney had a huge impact on the way the game was played and his contribution can never be forgotten," said Gallop.
Australian Rugby League chairman Colin Love said Kearney was a hugely influential figure in the proud history of St George.
"Ken Kearney was a giant of Australian rugby league through the 1950s and into the 60s," said Love.
"Perhaps no other player in the game's history has ever had such a profound influence on a single club as him.
"He possessed a brilliant tactical understanding of the game and it was Kearney who devised, as captain-coach, the blueprint that made Saints virtually unbeatable."
'Killer' Ken Kearney - St George Dragons
1952-61, 153 games. 18 tries, 2 goals (58 points).
Hooker. Captain-coach 1953-1955, captain in 1956 and captain-coach again in 1957-1961. Remained as coach in 1962.
NSW rep (1953 & 1955-58 ).
Aust rep (1952-58 ).