Rugbu League

‘Norm was Mr St George. Mr St George is now gone’: Teammates pay tribute to late Norm Provan

It was a dark day for the remaining Dragons, including Riley who said Provan was a “fantastic footballer and even better person”.

The famous photo of Norm Provan (left) and Arthur Summons taken after the 1963 NSWRL grand final.Credit:John O’Gready

Before any planned visit to Sydney, Provan, who settled on the Sunshine Coast, used to call Riley with one simple wish.

“He wanted to go around and see all his old teammates who were doing it tough,” Riley said. “There were always a few guys in nursing homes and he wanted to catch up and have a chat with them.”

Provan had giant hands, no teeth, was an electrician by trade and consumed alcohol once a year, if the Dragons won the premiership.

“He’d have one Moscow Mule, maybe two – that was his blowout for the year,” Riley said.

Johnny King, a seven-time premiership-winning winger, recalled Provan driving the standards and tempo at training, “Which would start at 5.30pm, not 5.31pm, at Kogarah every Tuesday and Thursday”.

“Norm would always set the pace at training, and if you didn’t like it, he’d point to Harry Bath or whoever was coaching reserve grade and say, ‘You can always go and play over there’,” King said.

“I was fast, but Norm was fast for a big man. For every one of his strides I used to take five.”

The 1963 grand final in the mud featured the famous photo of Provan and Western Suburbs rival Arthur Summons embracing after full-time. The iconic image, captured by Herald photographer John O’Gready, became synonymous with rugby league and inspired the NRL premiership trophy. Summons died in May last year aged 84.

Provan stands among St George fans after the 1965 grand final win at the SCG.

Provan stands among St George fans after the 1965 grand final win at the SCG.Credit:Fairfax Media

King loves that image. Provan’s efforts that day “set an example of the dedication you needed to win big games,” he said.

Dragons premiership winner Steve Edge, just a young boy in the Sheridan Stand at the 1963 decider, can still remember running onto the field after every St George game played at Kogarah to mob his hero.

“Norm would always be the one player on the field half an hour after the game signing autographs – he was my immortal before he was an actual Immortal,” Edge said.

Born in Urana in the Riverina in 1932, Provan also played 14 Tests for Australia and represented NSW on 16 occasions.

In addition to the 10 premierships with the Red V – four of which came as captain-coach between 1962 and 1965 – Provan turned his hand to full-time coaching the Dragons in 1968 before stints with Parramatta and Cronulla.


In 1975 he won the Eels’ first silverware – the pre-season Wills Cup – and fell one game short of a grand final, a goal he would achieve three years later with the Sharks.

Provan’s daughter Suzanne said of her famous father, who was still in good spirits when she saw him on Monday: “I haven’t got the words to describe how wonderful my father is. He was an exceptional man in his personal life, league life and working life. He worked from dawn until dusk until he was 80. He helped a lot of people around him. He was just an inspiration.”

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