QT rugby league columnist Michael Nunn shares a memorable moment with one of his footy heroes Noel Kelly (right) at a Jets Old Boys function. Another great Gary Parcell (left) joined them.
QT rugby league columnist Michael Nunn shares a memorable moment with one of his footy heroes Noel Kelly (right) at a Jets Old Boys function. Another great Gary Parcell (left) joined them.

Ipswich loyalty to end: Final words of great man ‘Ned’

IPSWICH has lost one of its favourite sons with Noel Kelly passing away after suffering a heart attack induced stroke.

Last year I had the idea to interview Noel Kelly.

I was given his number and left him a message, explaining about my Jets Buzz column and how I would like to talk to him about Ipswich and league.

The great Noel Kelly, the man who is in three teams of the century, rang me back and was full of excitement.

“Nothing tougher in life than a Saturday afternoon playing football in Ipswich,” Kelly said.

“The old Gasworks Oval. I do not get back to Ipswich but I am a Goodna boy and always will be.”

I never saw Noel play but I am forever indebted to such men, the men that have given so much and taken so little. That is their legacy.

“The person selling the QT on the corner made more money than I did playing football,’’ Kelly recalled.

“I had offers to leave Wests but I liked them. Not much money but just my club.’’

Loyal and homes for life.

Our conversation continued for over an hour and it could have gone longer. I could have stayed and talked about his career and life all day.

Kelly’s humble nature was on show that day.

“I was not that good,’’ he said.

“If you were not any good, they put you at hooker. My job was just to win the ball.

“The good players were in the second row.”

Kelly was so “not that good’’ he went on three Kangaroo Tours, played 28 Test matches, seven games for Queensland and five games for NSW and 111 games for his Magpies.

Most importantly, he lined up in eight games for Ipswich in the Bulimba Cup. From a butcher at Redbank to playing for Queensland and Australia. It does not get more Ipswich Rugby League than that.

Noel Kelly in his Australian gear.
Noel Kelly in his Australian gear.

When they named the Team of the Century in 2008 Noel Kelly was the Queensland and Australian hooker.

Kelly thought about the modern game and was in awe of what Cam Smith does.

“I watch Cam Smith now and I could not do what he does,’’ Kelly said.

“He does not have a mark on him and plays with such skill.”

When they name the next team of century in 2108 there is fair chance that Cam Smith will be the hooker of the century.

Smith paid tribute to his Australian and Queensland hooking colleague Noel Kelly

“It’s very sad to hear of the passing of Noel Kelly,” Smith reflected.

“One of the great players of our game but also a wonderful person.

“I was lucky enough to meet “Ned” in person only a couple of times, but I got the sense from our brief meetings he was a very humble and genuine man. My condolences go out to his entire family.”

Noel Kelly on the burst for Wests.
Noel Kelly on the burst for Wests.

Last year I met Noel Kelly and explained we had spoken on the phone. He simply nodded and said “my journalist friend”.

That still makes me smile.

A month ago, I had spent the morning with Gary Parcell, one third of the famous Ipswich front row with Kelly and Dud Beattie who played for Australia together against France in 1960.

I thought I would get a quote from Kelly about his old front row partner and so messaged him asking if I could ring him for a chat.

Mrs Kelly rang me back, explaining that her husband of 58 years was sick, and would love to chat Ipswich league more than anything but, he cannot now, and he will ring when he is better which won’t be too long she said.

I said thank you for the phone call and I would love to talk to Noel when he is better.

Sadly, Noel never recovered and that was my last contact with “Ned’’ - the Goodna boy that took Ipswich on a journey to three teams of the century.