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Mourning loss of Pasifika pioneer Oscar Danielson

Not much more than a month after mourning the death of Pasifika trailblazer Olsen Filipaina, rugby league has lost the original Polynesian pioneer ex-Kiwi prop Oscar Danielson, who has passed away in Wollongong aged 83.

Apia-born Danielson, one of New Zealand’s original exports to what was then known as the New South Wales Rugby League premiership, was the first Samoa-born player to play in the competition.

He signed with the Newtown Jets for the 1970 season, the same year fellow Kiwi front rower Bill Noonan started his 196-game Sydney premiership career with Canterbury Bankstown.

Other Kiwis followed soon after, notably Eddie Heatley (North Sydney), Bernie Lowther (Canterbury Bankstown) and Henry Tatana (Canterbury Bankstown), who all commanded interest from Sydney clubs in the wake of the Kiwis’ all-conquering deeds in 1971.

In making the move the players forfeited their chances of playing international rugby league, the signing clubs paying the New Zealand Rugby League a transfer fee for the player.

During those times numerous Kiwis signed to play in the lower grades in Sydney or with New South Wales country or Queensland clubs, among them Ron Ackland, Bruce Castle, Eddie Moore, Jock Butterfield, Bill Snowden, Mel Cooke, Graham Kennedy, Bill Deacon, Bill Burgoyne, Doug Gailey and Robert Orchard.

Danielson made 47 appearances and scored four tries for Newtown from 1970-1972 before becoming player-coach with the Corrimal Cougars in Wollongong in 1973, guiding the club to premiership victory the following year.

A key player for Marist in the 1960s, Danielson played for Auckland and also for New Zealand Māori before making his Test debut as Kiwi #454 in 1967 and going on to represent New Zealand at the 1968 Rugby League World Cup.

Legendary coach Harry Bath brought the ball-playing prop Danielson to Newtown, signing him in an Auckland hotel bar.

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