Rugby League mourns to loss of Kevin Humphreys

The National Rugby League is today mourning the passing of one of the game’s foremost administrators, Mr Kevin Humphreys, who passed away aged 80 after a long battle with cancer and other illness.

A commanding figure in the game’s move towards full-time professionalism in the 1970s, Mr Humphreys was one of the leading architects of State of Origin football, a concept which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.

From 1973-1983, Mr Humphreys was the most influential administrator in the game, serving as chairman of the NSWRL, ARL and the International Board.

Always colourful and often controversial, Mr Humphreys helped revolutionise the game.

He secured the first ever sponsorship for a national Rugby League team, he gave the green light to the midweek AMCO Cup knockout competition and implemented various rule changes including increasing the value of a try from three to four points.

Such was his vision, in 1973 Mr Humphreys predicted the then unheralded notion of a competition that would include teams from Newcastle, Canberra, Illawarra and Queensland, noting fans would not mind their team travelling every second week due to the prospect of cheaper flights and the opportunity to watch them play live on TV.

“Kevin was a significant figure in the game’s history,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“He deserves to be remembered for the way in which he inspired the development of the game and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

A prop forward who made his first-grade debut for Balmain against Newtown at Leichhardt Oval in the opening round of the 1953 season, Mr Humphreys played 43 matches for the Tigers, scoring nine tries.

But it was an administrator that Mr Humphreys had a lasting legacy on the game.

In 1965 he became the Tigers’ secretary and first full-time employee, presiding over the club during their famous 1969 Grand Final triumph against South Sydney.

In 1973 Mr Humphreys became the president of the NSWRL and chairman of the ARL before becoming the first full-time Executive Director of the NSWRL in 1976, positions he held until 1983.

Wests Tigers players will wear black armbands in Sunday’s NRL match against the Sydney Roosters at Campbelltown Stadium in honour of Mr Humphreys.

He is survived by his wife Joan and sons David and Stephen.

Stephen is the current Chief Executive Officer of Wests Tigers.