St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust joined a chorus of tributes to rugby league immortal Reg Gasnier on Monday after the Dragons great passed away following a long illness on Sunday night, just one day shy of his 75th birthday.
The man dubbed the ‘‘prince of centres’’ debuted for the Dragons in 1959 and went on to play 125 matches for the club, scoring 127 tries, during their record-breaking streak of 11 premierships in the the 1950s and 60s.
Though he never captained the Dragons he became Australia’s youngest captain at 23 years and 28 days in 1962 and played 37 tests for Australia before a broken leg ended his career at the age of 28 in 1967.
VIDEO: The St George Illawarra Dragons pay tribute to Reg Gasnier.
Doust said that Gasnier, who was named one of four original rugby league immortals in 1981, played an integral role in making the iconic Red V one of rugby league’s most celebrated symbols.
‘‘We would like to express what a sad day it is for us with the passing of Reg Gasnier,’’ Doust said.
‘‘A local hero, a legend in the game for Australia, NSW and of course six premierships in 11 of the world renowned Dragons’ premiership run.
‘‘[He was] a real gentleman and I think it’s fair to say, someone that has given so much to the great Red V.
‘‘We join with all our supporters in wishing his family all of the condolences from the Red V family.’’
Doust said Gasnier - who earned the nickname ‘‘Puff the Magic Dragon’’ for his blinding speed and footwork- will rightly be remembered as one of the greatest players the game has produced.
‘‘He was just a brilliant rugby league player,’’ Doust said.
‘‘He carried the ball in such a way that made him special, he evaded defenders in a way that made him special and he was just a gentleman. He epitomised what the game was to the population and the culture of Australia and certainly St George.
‘‘When you reflect on his career ... Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame, the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame, Immortal along with some others ... he’s certainly something unique and a really unique rugby league player.’’
Gasnier’s funeral will take place at Woronora on Thursday and Doust said the club is planning a fitting tribute ahead their match with Parramatta on Saturday.
‘‘We of course plan to do something a little bit special for Reg,’’ he said.
‘‘We haven’t got the details together yet because we’ve been waiting to talk through the matter with the family, but we will be putting together a tribute to that gentleman and that person who is so St George.’’
Gasnier is survived by his wife Maureen, son Peter and daughter in-law Angelique, daughter Kellie and son in-law Peter, and grandchildren Sheri, Jack, Bryce, Erin and Mitchell.