Ron Willey

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Ron Willey (1929–2004) was an Australian rugby league footballer and coach. He was a representative for the Australian national side. Post-playing, Willey had a long and successful first grade and State representative coaching career.

Playing career

Club career

Born in Canterbury, New South Wales in 1929, Willey was graded by the Canterbury-Bankstown Berries (as the Bulldogs were then known) in 1948 as a Centre, but was soon shifted to Fullback, and was the Berries regular first-grade fullback and goal-kicker from 1949 to 1953. In 1951 he was appointed captain for four games at the age of 21. He held the record as the youngest Bulldogs captain until Braith Anasta in 2002.

He joined Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in 1956 and played a total of 124 games over seven seasons for the club including their unsuccessful 1957 and 1959 Grand Final attempts. In his last season as a player at Manly in 1962, he was captain-coach. He held a record for the most points scored at Manly until overtaken by Graeme Eadie in the 1970s.

Willey joined the Parramatta Eels in 1963 but only played seven games before retiring in 1964.

Representative career

A player of immense talent, Willey played in an era where Clive Churchill was the incumbent representative fullback, denying Willey many selection opportunities. He became the first Canterbury local international when he was selected on the 1952–53 Kangaroo tour.

After missing most of 1953 and the entire 1954 season through a serious knee injury, Ron returned to the game as captain-coach of Rockhampton and represented Queensland that year.

In 1956, Ron played two games for New South Wales.

Coaching career

Club coach

Willey returned to Manly in 1970 for a successful five season tenure as a non-playing coach.During this time he guided them to their first New South Wales Rugby League premiership in 1972 and repeated that premiership success in 1973. In this, his second coaching stint at Manly he enjoyed an extraordinary 74% win rate.

He later coached Balmain from 1977 to 1979, North Sydney from 1980 to 1982 and Souths from 1983 to 1985 but was unable to repeat premiership success.

Willey coached English side Bradford Northern for a short stint and led them to the Premiership final and success in the Yorkshire Cup in 1989–90.

He coached for a total of 17 seasons and 403 matches.

Representative coach

Willey also coached New South Wales to the first ever clean sweep of a State of Origin series against Queensland in 1986.

Personal life

Willey's grandson is professional rugby league player Anthony Don, a fullback/winger who plays for the Gold Coast Titans.