The rugby league world, particularly in the Illawarra and Penrith, was shocked to hear of the sudden death of former Steelers and Panthers prop Steve Waddell yesterday.
Waddell died from a suspected heart attack. He was only 45.
Waddell played for the Steelers in the 1992, 1993 and 1994 seasons under coach Graham Murray.
He joined Illawarra from Penrith, where he began his career in 1988, returning to the Panthers for the 1995, 1996 and 1997 seasons after a successful stint with the Steelers.
In a sign of sheer courage and toughness, Waddell packed into scrums - back when they were scrums - with a dislocated shoulder during a game for the Panthers.
That typified Waddell’s total commitment and determination.
He was a hard runner with the football and a fearless defender.
Waddell won Illawarra’s best and fairest award, the BHP Medal, in 1992, which was the Steelers’ most successful year in the major league, as they reached the NSWRL final.
As a strong, hard and tough prop forward, Waddell, playing alongside inspirational captain Chris Walsh up front in the engine room, was instrumental in forming the cornerstone of the Steelers’ pack which went so close to achieving a grand final berth that season.
Waddell was a member of the Steelers team which won the Tooheys Challenge preseason final 4-2 against Brisbane in 1992 at Dubbo.
St George Illawarra Dragons director and former Steelers chief executive Bob Millward led the tributes to Waddell yesterday.
‘‘Steve was an uncompromising front-rower and a great clubman.
‘‘He was part of the Steelers’ greatest club effort in 1992, when the Steelers were beaten 4-0 in the final by St George,’’ he said.
‘‘Steve was very, very popular with his team-mates and with the fans. A good bloke, a real good bloke.
‘‘He will be sadly missed.’’
Waddell’s funeral is expected to be held later this week in the Blue Mountains.