Terry Fearnley

Last updated

Terry Fearnley
Personal information
Full nameTerence Colin Fearnley
Born(1933-07-21)21 July 1933
Sydney, Australia
Died4 March 2015(2015-03-04) (aged 81)
Sydney, Australia
Playing information
Position Prop
1954–64 Eastern Suburbs 14472025
1960 New South Wales 10000
Coaching information
197679 Parramatta 1016842967
1982 Western Suburbs 271601159
198384 Cronulla-Sutherland 502212744
1988 Illawarra Steelers 22611527
197785 NSW City Firsts 2200100
197785 New South Wales 540180
197785 Australia 12100283
Source: [1] [2]

Terence Colin Fearnley (21 July 1933 – 4 March 2015) was an Australian rugby league footballer and coach.


Playing career

Fearnley was a long serving member of the NSWRFL's Eastern Suburbs team, playing 144 matches for them at a bleak period in that club's existence in two stints 1954-55 and 1957-64. Injury kept him out of the 1960 grand final, one of the few successful years Eastern Suburbs enjoyed in that period. The front rower however was selected to represent his state, New South Wales that season. [3]

Coaching career

Following his retirement from the game as a player, Fearnley enjoyed a successful coaching career, taking the Parramatta Eels to their first ever Grand Final in 1976 and then again in 1977. He had also been successful coach of the New South Wales rugby league team but stood down at the start of the 1978 NSWRFL season to concentrate on club football. [4] Fearnley moved to coach Western Suburbs Magpies in 1982, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (1983–84) and Illawarra Steelers in 1988.

Returning to representative coaching in 1985, he was the first successful New South Wales State of Origin coach, and was also selected as Australian coach for the mid-season New Zealand Tour.

Selection controversy

It was during his 1985 tenure as Australian coach that four players - all Queenslanders in Chris Close, Mark Murray, Greg Dowling and Greg Conescu - were controversially sacked in favour of New South Wales players (Steve Ella, Des Hasler, Peter Tunks and Benny Elias), despite Australia having won the first two Tests of the three match series. Fearnley also had a frosty relationship with Australian (and Queensland) captain Wally Lewis, with Lewis claiming to close friend and fellow Maroon Paul Vautin that Fearnley seemed to be conferring on team selections with vice-captain Wayne Pearce (who was also the new NSW captain following Steve Mortimer's representative retirement) rather than Lewis himself. Lewis claimed he had found the pair privately talking over selection of the Test team in Fearnley's hotel room, though this is disputed by Pearce who claimed he was there for different reasons. Dropping the four Queenslanders backfired on Fearnley as New Zealand defeated Australia 18-0 in the final Test of the series at Carlaw Park in Auckland. It was the first time since the final Test of the 1956 Kangaroo Tour that Australia had been held scoreless in a Test match.

Queensland Rugby League Chairman, Senator Ron McAuliffe, publicly condemned the dropping of the four Queensland players from a winning Test side, saying "Its a football assassination and beyond all reasoning. And there can be no reasonable excuse for it".

The NZ tour took place while the 1985 State of Origin series was still in progress. NSW had won the series for the first time, taking the first two games before the Australian team was chosen for the NZ tour. Fearnley would later claim that the Queensland players in the team were unhappy that they'd just lost the Origin series, though he later admitted he didn't handle the situation as well as he could have. In Origin game three that year played at Lang Park, one of the sacked players, Maroons prop Greg Dowling, aimed a tirade of abuse at Fearnley from the sidelines after a Queensland try. The Maroons went on to win the dead rubber game 20-6. NSW captain Steve Mortimer, who announced his representative retirement following the Blues win in game II at the Sydney Cricket Ground, later regretted his decision. After clearly out-playing Maroons half Mark Murray, he was in line for a test recall against the Kiwis and as team vice-captain he felt he could have used his personal friendship with both Fearnley and Lewis to ease tensions on the tour.

Because of the controversy surrounding the NZ tour the Australian Rugby League instituted a new rule for national coaching which prevents any current serving State of Origin coach, being the national coach.

Following his retirement as a coach, Fearnley wrote an article for Rugby League Week that was highly critical of Wally Lewis' captaincy. This gained him a rebuke from ARL officials. [5]


Fearnley died from cancer on 4 March 2015. [6]

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  1. Whiticker/Hudson
  2. RLP
  3. Alan Whitaker & Glen Hudson. The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players. Gary Allen Press, Australia. 1995. ( ISBN   1 87516957 1)
  4. "Representative coach". The Sun-Herald . 19 March 1978. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  5. Tait, Paul (28 February 1986). "Now Abbot attacks Fearnley". The Sydney Morning Herald . Australia. p. 31. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  6. Lane, Daniel (4 March 2015). "Vale Terry Fearnley, a man's man and gentleman until the end". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
Sporting positions
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Brian Smith
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Illawarra Steelers

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Ron Hilditch
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Frank Stanton
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Don Furner
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Greg Pierce
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Jack Gibson
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Roy Masters
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Western Suburbs

Succeeded by
Len Stacker
Preceded by
Frank Stanton
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New South Wales

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Ron Willey
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Graeme Langlands
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Frank Stanton
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Norm Provan
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John Peard