Australian Rugby League lost one of its greatest-ever forwards when Kel O’Shea passed away in Brisbane on Thursday, aged 81.
The big, imposing second-rower carved out a formidable reputation during the 1950s and ’60s, making his Australian Test debut in the 1954 Ashes series at the age of 20 while playing for Ayr Colts in North Queensland.
An eight-time Queensland interstate rep (beginning with a rare series win in 1953 as a teenager) O’Shea was lured to Sydney by big-spending Western Suburbs in 1956. He played in the 1961 and ’63 Grand Finals – retiring after the latter – amongst 110 appearances in eight seasons with the Magpies.
A powerhouse on both sides of the ball, he represented NSW seven times and featured on the 1956-57 Kangaroo Tour and in Australia’s historic World Cup triumph in ’57, before playing the last of his 20 Tests in the home Ashes series of ’58.
Perhaps best remembered for the all-time great representative second-row combination he formed with iconic St George forward Norm Provan, O’Shea was named in the Team of the 1950s in 2007, and was also chosen in Western Suburbs’ and Wests Tigers’ Teams of the Century. O’Shea was one of the best forwards to miss out on the Queensland Team of the Century.
In a wonderful post-script to a glorious career, O’Shea came out of retirement to captain-coach Newcastle club Maitland in 1965, and converted his side’s winning try after the siren in that year’s Grand Final.
KEL O’SHEA – CAREER OVERVIEW
Ayr Colts (1951-55)
Western Suburbs Magpies (1956-63): 110 games – 30 tries (90 points)
Queensland (1953-55): 8 matches – 0 points
New South Wales (1956-58): 7 matches – 0 points
Australia (1954-58): 20 Tests – 7 tries (21 points)