Kelly in 1939
|Full name||William Martin Kelly|
Westport, New Zealand
1 July 1975|
Killara, New South Wales
William (Bill) Martin Kelly (1892-1975), born in Westport, New Zealand was a rugby league football identity who enjoyed success in New Zealand and Australia as both a player and coach in the first half of the 20th century. He played for Wellington, the Balmain Tigers, New South Wales and for both the New Zealand and Australian national sides. He also had a long coaching career with five different clubs in the NSWRFL in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and with New Zealand in 1932.
He became a Wellington representative and toured Australia in 1912 and 1913 with the New Zealand national side. No test matches were played with the Kiwis meeting New South Wales and Queensland and a number of regional sides. He played in Wellingtons 1913 victory over Auckland.
He joined the Balmain Tigers in Sydney in 1914 and that same year made his sole international Test appearance as a centre for Australia in the first Test against England at the Royal Agricultural Ground. He is listed on the Australian Players Register as Kangaroo No. 90.
He made further representative appearances for New South Wales in 1915 and captain-coached an undefeated Balmain Tigers side to the club's first premiership victory in season 1915. He was the first New Zealander to appear in an NSWRL grand final.
Kelly enlisted in the 1st AIF in 1916 in Sydney. He joined Machine Gun Company No. 9 and embarked for the Western Front on HMAT Benalla in May 1916. He was a Sergeant when he sustained wounds in Belgium which saw him repatriated in October 1917.
Kelly turned to coaching Sydney teams and guided the Balmain Tigers to the 1939 NSWRL premiership. He coached University (1923-1924), Newtown (1936-1937), Balmain Tigers (1938-1943), St. George Dragons (1944) and Canterbury Bankstown in 1945. After such a long coaching career, Billy Kelly was widely known as the Prince of Coaches.
In 2012 he was named in the Wellington Rugby League's Team of the Century.
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