New Zealand’s rugby league community is mourning the loss of two more former internationals after long-time Kiwi team-mates Brian Reidy and Bill Snowden passed away within two days of each other.
Reidy died suddenly aged 77 on June 2 in Auckland while Snowden passed away at the age of 81 in Sydney on June 4.
Their deaths come only weeks after the loss of outstanding Kiwi Tony Kriletich on May 21.
Reidy and Snowden both began their New Zealand careers on the Kiwis’ 1959 tour to Australia alongside an array of other outstanding newcomers including the likes of Don Hammond, Gary Phillips and Graham Kennedy.
Reidy and Snowden went on to make their Test debuts in the 1961 series against Australia in New Zealand, wing Reidy (#383) in the 12-10 first Test win and scrumhalf Snowden (#391) in the second which the Kiwis lost 8-10.
Their careers remained entwined, Snowden playing the last of his 18 Tests when he captained the Kiwis on their 1965 tour of Britain and France while Reidy ended his 19-Test career where he began it in the second international against Great Britain at Carlaw Park in 1966.
Reidy’s passing came as a huge shock. A chance meeting at Auckland’s domestic airport in mid-May found Reidy and his wife Margaret about fly to Christchurch for a planned South Island tour. One of life’s true gentlemen, ‘Speedy’ was in good form, talked about the Vodafone Warriors and was really looking forward to his trip, especially experiencing the annual Bluff oyster and food festival.
He was still working in the insurance industry – which he had been in for many years – spending time in the office a few days a week.
Like Kriletich, Reidy was a product of Sacred Heart College and a Marist Saints man through and through, a life member to boot.
He was made a life member of the New Zealand Rugby League last year, icing a huge contribution to the game he loved throughout his life.
As a player he was in the top echelon, originally picked as a fullback for the 1959 tour to Australia but going on to play on the wing in all but his 19th and final Test when he lined up at fullback. Speed – hence the ‘Speedy’ moniker – was his greatest asset. It helped him to his finest achievement when he scored the Kiwis’ first three tries in their 16-13 second Test win over Australia at Lang Park in Brisbane in 1963.
A long-time Auckland representative as well, he played 65 matches in all for the Kiwis, scoring 34 tries. After his playing career finished he remained involved in the game at various levels notably with the Ex-Kiwis Association and also the NZRL Museum Board.
Reidy was good company, positive and with a ready smile. So, too, was Snowden, always engaging when he used to return home to Auckland frequently in the days when he was working for Marley Tiles.
He was out of the then-strong Ponsonby club which lays claim to so many Kiwis through the years among them Des White, the late Jack Fagan and Roger Bailey. He also represented Auckland and New Zealand Maori.
Snowden, renowned as a clever halfback, played 57 matches in total for New Zealand later moving to Australia at a time when players were ostracised if they did so.
Last year a group from the Men in League organisation – including former Kangaroo John Peard – visited Snowden at Sir Thomas Mitchell Nursing Home in Illawong; Snowden was in care suffering from dementia.
When he shifted to Sydney, he was planning to play for Eastern Suburbs (now the Sydney Roosters) but he was unable to gain a clearance; legend has it that he played for the juniors under a false name instead. Those were the days.
He was chairman of selectors for Easts in the mid-1970s.
The Vodafone Warriors pass on their condolences to family and friends of both Brian Reidy and Bill Snowden.