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Vale Barry Muir

Legendary Test rugby league halfback and firebrand Queensland coach, Barry Muir, has died aged 84, after a long battle with ill-health.

The man affectionately known as 'Garbo', played 25 Tests for Australia, captaining his country twice, and touring Britain and France in 1959-60 and 1963-64. He  played 33 tour matches for the Kangaroos against club and provincial sides, and represented Rest of the World against Great Britain.

Barry played 22 matches for Queensland and coached the Maroons from 1974-78, restoring pride in the jumper and infamously labelling the New South Wales players 'cockroaches'.

Born at Murwillumbah, he grew up at Tweed Heads, but was educated at Coolangatta, from where he represented Queensland Primary Schools, kindling his love for all things maroon.

Barry made his senior debut for Tweed Heads Seagulls, before moving to Toowoomba, to play under the legendary Duncan Thompson. After one season in Toowoomba, he moved to Brisbane in 1958, signing with Wests, where he played 11 seasons.

In 1959, Barry made his state and international debuts, the then 21-year-old blooded at Test level against the touring New Zealanders, as part of an outstanding crop of youngsters, which included Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper and fellow Queenslander, Noel Kelly.

The 1959 Queensland side was the last to win a series against New South Wales, before the introduction of State of Origin football in the 1980s.

Barry played all three Tests against the Kiwis, and then all six Tests on the 1959-60 Kangaroo Tour of Britain and France. He was named vice-captain of Australia's World Cup squad in 1960, and led his country for the first time in a match against France, after skipper, Keith Barnes withdrew through injury.

In 1961, Barry captained Queensland against New South Wales in a drawn series and also toured New Zealand with the Australian side, as vice-captain to Brian Carlson. In the Second Test in Auckland, Muir led Australia to a 20-8 victory, after the Kangaroos had lost the First Test.

Barry played the First Test of the 1962 home series against Britain, and was named Australia's Man of the Match. He was inexplicably dropped for the return clash, but returned to the international arena in 1963, against the touring Kiwis and South Africans. At the end of the '63 season, he was part of the first Kangaroo touring side in over 50 years to win the Ashes in Britain. He played all six Tests on that tour - three in Britain and three in France.

Barry Muir, second from right, front row. 1963-64 Kangaroos tour of Britain and France.
Barry Muir, second from right, front row. 1963-64 Kangaroos tour of Britain and France.

During the 1960s, a host of Queenslanders were lured south by big money offers from poker machine backed Sydney clubs, but Barry rejected their overtures, and remained at his beloved Panthers.

In 1968, in his third season as captain-coach of Wests, he was banned from Brisbane football for allegedly spitting at referee, Dale Coogan.

Years later Barry told league author, Alan Whiticker that it was well known in Brisbane that referees had to get over the top of him, if they wanted a career in football.

"The referee (in Barry's final match) was giving me a hard time," Barry said.

"Let me say, that I admit that I spat, but I didn't mean to spit on him."

Barry accepted a captain-coach role at Ayr in 1970, and then finished his playing career back where it began, at Tweed Heads Seagulls, in 1971.

Legendary Brisbane administrator, Dick 'Tosser' Turner brought Muir to Redcliffe in 1973, before he was named coach of the Queensland side in 1974. Although Queensland did not win a series under Barry, there were several famous victories, draws and heart breaking near misses.

There were star players like Johnny Lang, Greg Veivers and Geoff Richardson in the Queensland teams of that era, but there were also a number of self-confessed battlers, and Barry worked wonders with them, preparing them to play against all-international NSW sides.

"Coaching Queensland gave me great pleasure, as it was a job no-one really wanted, and to see us become competitive again, was a real buzz," Barry said.

In the 1980s, Barry coached Queensland Country (from Biloela) and then Combined Brisbane. He also had stint coaching Norths Devils, where he succeeded Graham Lowe.

In retirement, Barry was regularly visited at his Tweed Heads home by the men he coached and played alongside, as they had a special affection for one of the great men of Queensland football.

On August 19, 2022, Barry, already a member of the NRL Hall of Fame, was named halfback in the Brisbane Rugby League Team of the Century, with Wally Lewis the five-eighth.


Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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