John “Chow” Hayes, a rugby league great, has died at the age of 84, just days before the NRL Grand Final.
The footy legend was a prop, hooker, and second-rower for the Western Suburbs in the NSWRL competition in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hayes made his first grade debut at Henson Park in 1961 and was picked to play for New South Wales that year.
According to NSWRL President Bob Millward, “John was highly respected and regarded, and he was a lifetime contributor to the game he loved at all levels.”
“Chow carved out a successful career in the code and he will be sadly missed.”
Born in Marrickville, Hayes left school at 14 to pursue footy and a career in panel beating.
He played 160 games for the Magpies and retired at the end of 1970 to focus on coaching: the Wests reserve grade side in the early 1970s then North Sydney between 1983 and 1984.
Many have flocked to social media to pay their respects.
One person wrote on X/Twitter: “RIP one of the good guys… John ‘Chow’ Hayes… lovely man.”
Wests Magpies said it was “saddened to learn of the passing of 1961-69 Magpie John Hayes”.
“Our thoughts are with John’s Family & Friends at this time.”
Someone else shared: “Another old Magpie from the Pratten Park era gone.
“Vale Chow Hayes.”
Hayes was also a Chief Inspector in the NSWForce and a life member at Western Suburbs.