Wallabies legend Ken Catchpole dead at 78

Australian rugby union legend and former Wallabies captain Ken Catchpole has died aged 78. (AAP)

Australian rugby union legend and former Wallabies captain Ken Catchpole has died aged 78.

Wallabies legend Ken Catchpole is being remembered as a born leader and a halfback without peer in world rugby.

Catchpole died in Sydney on Thursday night after a long battle with illness, aged 78.

In an international career cut short because of injury, Catchpole left an indelible mark on Australian rugby in 27 Tests for the Wallabies between 1961 and 1968.

He captained Australia in 13 of those Tests, including when he was on debut in the famous Wallabies jumper against Fiji as a 21-year-old.

"Ken wasn't just a remarkable rugby player but also a remarkable man," Rugby Australia director and former Wallabies skipper Paul McLean said.

"He'll be fondly remembered as one of our best and his records will live long at Randwick, NSW and the Wallabies.

"Ken had a real aura about him both on and off the field."

Catchpole first made his mark in Sydney club rugby with Randwick in the late 1950s before going on to play more than 180 games with the Galloping Greens.

Fellow Randwick legend and ex-Wallabies captain Simon Poidevin said Catchpole deserved to be rated among the icons of rugby.

"Ken was an extraordinary athlete with blistering speed, amazing agility and a fearless spirit in taking on much bigger opponents," Poidevin said.

"Catchy was a natural leader and was consistently rated the best halfback in the world.

"He was loved by Wallabies young and old and displayed a modesty that defied his achievements and set an example for our sport."

Catchpole was also known for his accurate passing and clever opportunism and was inducted in the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2013.

His playing career came to an abrupt end at 28 when he suffered a severe hamstring injury in a tackle from All Blacks legend Colin Meads.

He is immortalised with a statue outside Allianz Stadium in Sydney, while the Shute Shield's most valuable player award honours his name in the Sydney club competition.

The statue will be relocated to the entrance of the new Rugby Australia building in the Moore Park sporting precinct on Boxing Day.

Catchpole was an inaugural inductee to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1988.

In retirement, Catchpole became a respected voice on the national broadcaster ABC's rugby coverage and he served as a president of NSW Rugby Union.

He was also a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust for more than two decades.

He is the second former Wallaby being mourned this week after 18-Test prop and Queensland great Stan Pilecki died aged 70.

Source: AAP

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