Keith Holman

Keith Holman
Keith Holman 1950.jpg
Personal information
Full name Keith Victor Holman
Born (1927-09-11)11 September 1927[1]
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died 11 October 2011(2011-10-11) (aged 84)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[2]
Playing information
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
Weight 11 st 7 lb (73 kg)
Position Halfback
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1948–61 Western Suburbs 203 70 84 0 378
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1950–58 New South Wales 25 20 1 0 62
1950–58 Australia 35 14 6 0 54
1951–58 NSW City 8 7 3 0 27
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1954–55 Western Suburbs 36 9 1 26 25
1977–77 Western Suburbs 22 7 0 15 32
Total 58 16 1 41 28
Source: [3]

Keith Victor Holman, MBE (11 September 1927 – 11 October 2011) was an Australian Rugby League footballer, a national and state representative Halfback whose club career was played with Western Suburbs from 1949 to 1961.

He has since been named as one of the nation's finest footballers of the 20th century.[4] After retiring as player, Holman was coach of Wests and later became one of the game's top-level referees.


Holman was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Early years and war service

Holman had an impoverished childhood during the Great Depression. In his earliest years he was raised in a shanty at Yarra Bay in Sydney by a man named Holman who may have been his father. He was taken in by a local family named Schofield who enabled him to be schooled by the De La Salle Brothers at Surry Hills. There he met and befriended Bernie Purcell whom he would later play against and alongside in state and Kangaroo touring sides.[5]

Toward the end of the Second World War Holman joined the RAAF as a Leading Aircraftman. He was a chef with 82 Wing, 23 Squadron and was posted to bases in Ipswich, Queensland and later after the Japanese surrender, at Morakai and Balikpapan in Borneo. The Squadron flew B-24 Liberators in a transport role, flying ex-Prisoners of War and other Australian personnel back to Australia.[5]

Club career

After the war he trialled for a contract with South Sydney but was turned away due to his small stature. An approach to Manly was also unsuccessful so he headed to Dubbo and befriended former Wests Five-eighth Eric Bennett. With Bennett's help, he landed a contract with the Magpies in 1948 and quickly rose through the ranks, playing with the Magpies until 1961.

In thirteen seasons at Wests he never played in a premiership-winning team at club level. He missed Wests' premiership victory in 1952 because he was selected for that year's Kangaroo tour. He was captain-coach at Wests for seasons 1954 and 1955.

Representative career

Holman started his representative career with selection for New South Wales in 1950 and continued to represent the Blues until 1958.

Also in 1950, Holman made his test debut for Australia, figuring prominently in Australia's first Ashes conquest in 30 years. He was selected to represent Sydney against France during their 1951 tour of Australasia in a match that ended in a 19-all draw. He made both the 1952 Kangaroo tour (5 Tests and 5 tour matches) and the 1956–57 tour (all 6 Tests plus 11 tour matches).[6] Holman was the Australian selectors preferred halfback choice and regular in Test sides and World Cup squads from 1950 to 1958. By the end of his representative career he had amassed the then record of 32 Tests and a then record of 14 Anglo-Australian international appearances,[7] beating Clive Churchill and Sandy Pearce. He made 12 Test appearances against France and 6 appearances against New Zealand. He was named New South Wales Player of the Year three times – 1951, 1956 and 1958.[8]

Referee & coach

When his playing days were over he turned to refereeing. In a 1971 game between Queensland and New South Wales, Holman sent off three players. Holman controlled the 1971 Grand Final and went on to referee the Tests of New Zealand's tour of Australia in 1972.[9] He was consistent first grade referee in 155 games from 1965 till 1974.

He coached a Port Kembla side in 1975 and 1976 and then Western Suburbs in the NSWRFL. His final year active year in rugby league was 1977 when he coached his beloved Wests to victory in the 1977 Amco Cup.[9]


He had the rare honour of being made a life member of Western Suburbs while still playing.

Keith Holman was awarded Life Membership of the New South Wales Rugby League in 1983.[10]

He was later selected in the Wests Tigers Team of the Century and the Western Suburbs Magpies Team of the Century.[11] In 2003 he was admitted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame.[12]

In 2007 Holman was selected by a panel of experts at halfback in an Australian 'Team of the 50s'.[13]

In February 2008, Holman 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.[14] Also in 2008 the Western Suburbs Magpies celebrated their centenary by inducting six inaugural members into the club's Hall of Fame. These six included Holman.[15]


  1. ^ his war record says 1925 but a number of sources say he upped his age to be able to enlist in 1945
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ RLP
  4. ^ Century's Top 100 Players Archived 25 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b 1980 Holman Interview Archived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Andrews p316
  7. ^ Gallaway, Jack (2003). Origin: Rugby League's Greatest Contest 1980–2002. Australia: University of Queensland Press. pp. 177–78. ISBN 0-7022-3383-8.
  8. ^ Andrews p. 282
  9. ^ a b Whiticker p 244
  10. ^ Sydney Morning Herald : 11 October 1983 (page 26)
  11. ^ (2008). "Western Suburbs Team of the Century". Wests Archives. Western Suburbs Magpies R.L.F.C. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008.
  12. ^ Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame Archived 18 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ AAP (1 August 2007). "Team of the 50s named". The Daily Telegraph. Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  14. ^ "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 23 February 2008. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008.
  15. ^ (2008). "Western Suburbs Magpies Hall of Fame". Wests Archives. Western Suburbs Magpies R.L.F.C. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008.


  • 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
  • Andrews, Malcolm (2006) The ABC of Rugby League Austn Broadcasting Corpn, Sydney
  • Haddan, Steve (2007) The Finals – 100 Years of National Rugby League Finals, Steve Haddan Publishing, Brisbane
  • Heads, Ian and Middleton, David (2008) A Centenary of Rugby League, MacMillan Sydney

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