Balmain’s English hero passes on

Like so many Rugby League folk, I was saddened to hear of the death, aged 83, of my former fellow Balmain Tigers player, Dave Bolton after a long illness.

I knew a bit about Dave – who played for Wigan and Great Britain before heading Down Under in 1965 – before my 1985 arrival at the Leichhardt Oval, but certainly not as much as I knew within the next few months!

Keith Barnes, old Golden Boots himself, was chief executive of Balmain, having previously played alongside Dave, who was the stand-out star of the club’s against-the-odds 1969 Grand Final win over South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Naturally he came up during the conversations we had when sorting out the move, and the respect in which he was held at the club was crystal clear.

It was underlined when a succession of fans spoke to me and repeated Keith’s words: “If you do half as well for us as Dave Bolton did, you’ll be fine.”

Dave, a halfback like myself, had an amazing career, winning the title in both hemispheres (Wigan were champions in 1960). He also played in four Challenge Cup finals, winning two.

Then there was his Great Britain tally of 23 appearances. He played in four Ashes series, helping the Lions win three, and two of those were in Australia.

After witnessing his talents first hand, it’s no wonder Balmain were so keen to sign him.

Dave settled in Australia, and as well as commentating on and writing about the game, later coached Parramatta Eels and was assistant to Tim Sheens at Penrith Panthers.

But his heart was with Balmain, and then West Tigers after the merger with Western Suburbs in 1999.

I’m proud to sit alongside Dave and Ellery Hanley as the only three English members of the club’s Hall of Fame.

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