Rugby league coaching icon Ron Massey has died after a long battle with illness.
One of the game’s most respected figures and early innovators passed away aged 86 on Monday morning.
Massey served as an assistant to coaching legend Jack Gibson during his premiership-winning reigns at Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta in the 1970s and 80s.
While Gibson is acknowledged as the greatest coach of all time, Massey was seen as an integral part of the Roosters’ premiership wins in 1975-76 before helping the Eels to claim their maiden titles in 1981-83.
When Gibson became the first coach in the game to appoint an assistant, he picked Massey to be his right-hand man.
Together the pair travelled to the United States to study the techniques of NFL franchises and introduced video review analysis.
He was also a long-time confidant of Wayne Bennett and was alongside him in the coach’s box when St George Illawarra broke their title drought in 2010.
He served as Cronulla chief executive from 1990-91 and on the video review panels of the NRL and ARL.
The NRL announced that a minute’s silence would be held at this weekend’s preliminary finals as a tribute to the man considered one of the game’s sharpest minds.
In 2013 the NSWRL acknowledged his contribution to the game by naming its second grade competition in his honour.
He was also a founding member of the Men of League Foundation, which aims to help members of the game’s fraternity who have fallen on hard times.
Massey had fought a long battle with cancer and in 2012 lost the lower part of his left leg to gangrene.
Massey was born on October 17, 1929 and grew up in the Illawarra districts, south of Sydney.
He played for the Collegians club in Wollongong before moving to Sydney where he met Gibson, launching his coaching career.
The pair formed a tight bond which lasted until Gibson’s death in 2008.
He also struck up a strong friendship with NSW and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen, who credited him with inspiring him with turning around his career.
In 2011, Gallen told of the expletive-riddled spray he received from Massey, who accused him of being “soft” and a “sook”, which helped him to reach his potential after finding himself at a crossroads.
Massey is survived by his wife Patricia and sons Paul and Luke.