Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Magpie legend Keith Holman Dead

Posted ImageAustralian and Magpie Rugby League Legend Keith 'Yappy' Holman passed away last night. He is survived by his wife Hazel. Keith was 84 years of age. A one club man (Western Suburbs Magpies 1948-61), 33 NSW games, 35 Tests/World Cup's for the Australian Kangaroos, Test & Grand Final Referee as well as being a 1st Grade Coach. May one of the Greatest Magpies of all Rest In Peace.

He was only 5 feet 6 inches tall, but Keith Holman was a tenacious rugby league halfback that changed the game.

Born in Ballarat on September 11, 1927, Holman was raised in La Perouse as an orphan and attended De La Salle College in Surry Hills. He played football early in his childhood, but it wasn't until he moved to western NSW at the end of the war that playing football professionally became an option. “I was a cook in the Air Force and at the end of the war I was posted to Dubbo,” Holman said. “I played football with the local CYMS footy and was brought to Sydney by a fella that played for Western Suburbs at the time by the name of Eric Bennett,” he said

Holman was dubbed “Yappy” throughout his career after questioning a referee during a game. “A man named Darcy Lawler said: 'yappy shut your mouth'. I guess it stuck,” Holman said.

Holman's dedication to rugby league saw him play 13 seasons for the Magpies and 32 tests for Australia. But one game stands out. “The highlight was winning the Ashes against England in 1950 for the first time in 32 years,” he said. “It was my first test series.”

Holman continued to pursue his love for rugby league as a coach, referee and selector. “I never had much trouble refereeing,” he said. “If they had've been abusive, they would have been off the field and on the bench.
“There were only a few times I had to run past and tell them to keep their bloody hands down or they'll go. They respected me so after I spoke to them once, they didn't do it again.”

But at the end of a game between Canterbury and Manly at Belmore Oval, Holman and his family had to be accompanied to their car by police.

“I was refereeing the game and I gave a penalty against Canterbury in the last few minutes which made them lose,” he said. “One of the girlfriends's of a Canterbury player waited outside the referee's room for me and was making threats. So my wife, Hazel called the police and we were escorted to the car and through the gates.”

When Holman retired in 1961, his career in rugby league was commemorated with a testimonial day at the Sydney Cricket Ground. While great players are often recognised with testimonial dinners, Holman was the only rugby league player to have ever had a testimonial day.

He was acknowledged during his career for the way he changed the nature of scrumhalf play and the accolades continued long into his retirement.

He was named in several historical teams including both the West Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies Team of the Century and in the 1970s The Holman JFLFC - a junior Rugby League club was established.
Holman also received a MBE Medal in 1977 and was honoured with an award for his 50 years of continued service to Rugby League in Australia.

In February 2008, he was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007), which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia. Seventeen players from the list were placed into the Team of the Century and while Andrew Johns beat Holman for the halfback position, Holman said he was lucky to be included in the top 100. “It's a great honour. Just a great honour to be chosen and named on the list,” he said at the time.

Holman is survived by his wife, Hazel, of 60 years, their three children Christine, Susan and Neale, 8 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Funeral announcements are expected to be made soon.

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