MAITLAND international Noel Pidding, once described as the Bradman of rugby league, has died, aged 86.
Pidding died at an Ingleburn nursing home on Saturday night after suffering from dementia in recent years.
A goal-kicking fullback who once scored two converted tries in two minutes playing for St George against Eastern Suburbs at the SCG, he made 45 appearances for Australia, including 20 Tests, between 1948 and 1954.
"Pidding was an outstanding back and exceptional goalkicker, who was once rated by Norm Provan as the greatest winger he played with or against," league historian Sean Fagan wrote in his research notes for Australia's 100 greatest players in the game's 2008 centenary year.
The British press dubbed Pidding "Rugby League's Bradman" during the 1952-53 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France. Averaging 10.4 points a game, he was the tour's top point-scorer with 228 in 22 matches.
Born in Maitland in 1927, Pidding played junior league at Homeville (now part of Telarah) and progressed through the famous West Maitland club on his way to Maitland's senior ranks.
A member of the Hunter Sporting Hall of Fame, Pidding was destined for a long career as Australia's fullback but, while sidelined with broken ribs, the great Clive Churchill emerged and went on to make the green-and-gold No. 1 jersey his own.
"It was not until Pidding switched to the wing . . . that he regained a berth in the Test team," rugby league author Malcolm Andrews wrote in The ABC of Rugby League. "At the very least, the immediate post-World War II era had few point-scorers to rival him."
Pidding played 104 first-grade games for St George between 1947 and 1953 and was a member of their premiership-winning team in 1949, scoring two tries in the final and in the grand final.
He returned to Maitland in 1954 then went back to Sydney the following year and played 23 games in two seasons with the Roosters. League historian and statistician David Middleton said Pidding's representative career included 29 games for NSW, 10 for either City or Country, and one for the Kangaroos against the Rest of the World.
"Noel Pidding played a total of 214 senior matches during his career, scoring 107 tries [worth three points each] and kicking 617 goals for a total of 1555 points," he said.
Pidding's funeral will be at noon on Friday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Camden Valley Way, Leppington.