Rugby league in mourning after death of first Dally M winner

Robert 'Rocky' Laurie, pictured here playing for Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney.
Robert 'Rocky' Laurie played for Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney. Image: Twitter

The rugby league world is mourning the death of the first Dally M medal winner Robert 'Rocky' Laurie.

The former Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney five-eighth died at 66 on Saturday.

Laurie played 58 first grade games for Easts across two stints from 1976 to 1977 and 1981 to 1982.

FAREWELL: Cheap pasta and beer ease Ray Warren into retirement

HUGE: Brad Fittler in line for Bulldogs job after Phil Gould admission

In between he played for South Sydney, scoring 16 tries in 64 games for the Rabbitohs.

In 1980 he was awarded the Dally M Medal as the league's best player.

It was the first time the coveted prize had been awarded and Laurie remains the only South Sydney player ever to win it.

Robert Laurie, pictured here in action for Eastern Suburbs against Wests in 1982.
Robert Laurie in action for Eastern Suburbs against Wests in 1982. (Photo by Paul Matthews/Fairfax Media via Getty Images). (Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

Laurie played one game for NSW in 1981, and remarkably represented both City and Country Origin sides.

In 1983 he returned to his hometown of Wauchope on the NSW Mid-North Coast and captained a Northern Division rep side to a famous victory over the Great Britain Lions in 1988.

Speaking about Laurie in 2020, former Souths teammate David Sinclair said: “You knew if you passed the ball to him or were running off him that something might happen.

“We had a good combination, we weren’t big talkers on the field but I tracked him a lot and I gave the ball to him as much as I could.

"I thought if I gave him an early ball he might create something so I just fed him as much as I could.”

Rugby league world mourns death of Robert Laurie

Former South Sydney centre Gary Wright said: “Our team [in 1980] wasn’t all that strong and in my view Rocky was the most outstanding player in the team so if our team was winning and Rocky was the best player he was going to get (Dally M) points, and he deserved it. He was an excellent player to play with.

“Rocky was inspirational. He was the sort of bloke who wanted the ball all the time.

"He wasn’t afraid to do things on the field, which was also great. He was a good talker on the field and good to play next to.”

Tributes have been pouring in on social media after Laurie's death.

Veteran sports journalist Barry Toohey wrote: "Sad day for rugby league with the death of former Easts, Souths and NSW five-eighth Robert ‘Rocky’ Laurie this morning in Wauchope after a long battle with mental illness.

"He was the first Dally M Medal winner back in 1980."

Broadcaster Chris Smith tweeted: "Rocky Laurie was my great South Sydney Rabbitohs hero. So sad to hear about his passing."

Readers seeking support and information can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.