Bill Kelly (rugby league)

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Bill Kelly
Bill Kelly 1939.jpg
Kelly in 1939
Personal information
Full nameWilliam Martin Kelly
Westport, New Zealand
Died1 July 1975
Killara, New South Wales
Playing information
Rugby union
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1910 Buller
1911 Wellington
Total 0 0 0 0 0
Rugby league
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1912–13 Athletic (WRL)
1914–15 Balmain 27 16 0 0 48
Total 27 16 0 0 48
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1912–13 Wellington 6 6 0 0 18
1912–13 New Zealand 17 8 0 0 24
1914 Australia 1 0 0 0 0
1914–15 New South Wales 3
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1914–15 Balmain 28 18 6 4 64
1923–24 University 24 4 2 18 17
1936–37 Newtown 22 11 0 11 50
1938–43 Balmain 92 55 5 32 60
1944 St. George 15 9 0 6 60
1945 Canterbury-Bankstown 14 4 1 9 29
Total 195 101 14 80 52
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1932 New Zealand
1932 Auckland 1 0 0 1 0
Source: [1][2]

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.

Early years[edit]

Born in Westport, Kelly played first class rugby union for Buller when he was 18 and later represented Wellington.

Playing career[edit]

Kelly switched to rugby league with the launch of the Wellington Rugby League competition in 1912 and played for Athletic in their grand final loss to Petone.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

War service[edit]

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.

Coaching career[edit]

Balmain Premiers 1939 – Bill Kelly, back row, third from left

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.[8][9]

In 1932 Kelly returned to New Zealand, he coached both New Zealand and Auckland against the 1932 Great Britain team.[10]


Since 1997 Australia and New Zealand have contested the Bill Kelly Memorial Cup which is awarded to the winner of transtasman tests.[11][12]

In 2012 he was named in the Wellington Rugby League's Team of the Century.


  • Whiticker, Alan & Collis, Ian (2006) The History of Rugby League Clubs, New Holland, Sydney
  • Whiticker, Alan & Hudson, Glen (2006) The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, Gavin Allen Publishing, Sydney
  • Heads, Ian and Middleton, David (2008) A Centenary of Rugby League, MacMillan Sydney
  • Andrews, Malcolm (2006) The ABC of Rugby League Austn Broadcasting Corpn, Sydney


  1. ^ Yesterday's Hero
  2. ^ "Statistics at". 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. ^ both the Whiticker and Heads/Middleton sources refer to this nickname
  4. ^ Team of the Century-Week 3 Wellington Rugby League
  5. ^ Lion Red 1988 Rugby League Annual, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1988. p.p.151-159
  6. ^ ARL Annual Report, page 52
  7. ^ New Zealand Rugby League Annual '98, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1998. p.203
  8. ^ Rugby League Project & Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players
  9. ^ Straight Between the posts by Frank Hyde
  10. ^ Coffey, John and Bernie Wood Auckland, 100 years of rugby league, 1909–2009, 2009. ISBN 978-1-86969-366-4.
  11. ^ Coffey and Wood The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League ISBN 1-86971-090-8
  12. ^ "League: Kiwis wait to get hands on trophy". The New Zealand Herald. 14 November 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2011.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Arthur Hennessy
New Zealand national rugby league team

Succeeded by
Thomas McClymont