RIP: Tough as nails Rebels back rower remembered
RUGBY LEAGUE: The South Grafton rugby league community were among the packed Uniting Church on Thursday to mourn the passing of 1948-49 dual-premiership winning back rower Kenneth Gray.
Gray was a barnstorming forward playing for South Grafton Rebels in 1945-46 before returning for the side in 1948 before wrapping up his career with the red and whites in 1950.
During his final season with the Rebels, Gray established himself as one of the most dominant forwards on the North Coast being selected in the back row for the North Coast representative side which met Great Britain in a tour match at Kempsey.
Gray snuck his way across the line for the lone North Coast try against the much-vaunted British forward pack earning him high publicity in the British press who couldn't believe that an unknown player from the bush had humbled the seasoned internationals.
The back rower was picked on the reserves list in the South Grafton Rebels Team of the Century selected in 2014.
Gray actually returned to the Rebels on a one-off occasion in the 1956 Clarence grand final between the Rebels and rivals Grafton All Blacks at the Grafton Showground.
Despite only being 16 years old at the time, Rebels winger in that grand final Darcy Patricks could remember Gray's presence vividly.
"I only had that one game with Ken," he said. "The week before in the semi-final Noel Butters broke his leg quite nastily in a tackle from Lower Clarence's Ray Laurie.
"We needed a replacement and the coach at the time was good friends with Kenny and brought him in for the grand final.
"It had been a few years since Ken had played but he was a brilliant footballer and Athol trusted him. From that game he was outstanding, you would swear to God he had just taken the field the week before he was in that good form."
While South Grafton lost the grand final that day 22-17, Gray had won the hearts of the fans and the community.
Gray is survived by his five daughters and their families.