Sunday 26th May
#THROWBACKTHURSDAY – HERB NARVO: FROM NEWCASTLE TO NEWTOWN
Each Thursday, during the season, thanks to CRYO Sydney, we step back in time to bring you a story from our rich history. Because this week’s game is against Newcastle, we are going to share the story of one of our greatest players, a member of our 1943 Grand Final winning team who hailed from the Hunter.
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HERB NARVO: FROM NEWCASTLE TO NEWTOWN
You could say that Herb Narvo was the original Marrickville Mauler.
In 1943, almost 41 years before Jeff Fenech made his name at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the former Newtown and Test forward knocked out Billy ‘Wokko’ Britt to claim the Australian heavyweight boxing crown. By the way, did we mention the bout only last 23 seconds?
Born in Ultimo on 19 August 1912, Hermann Olaf (Herb) Narvo was raised in Newcastle where he cut his teeth with the Northern Suburbs (fittingly nicknamed the Bluebags) before joining Newtown in 1937. An instant success in Sydney, Narvo quickly earned a reputation as one of the most damaging forwards in the premiership.
“He was a punishing defender in his own right but was more noted for this explosive runs through the ruck,” wrote noted Newtown historian Terry Williams in his book Out of the Blue.
“He created numerous tries for his outside backs by splitting the line after a crab-like run, and linking up with his speed merchants.”
Initially a controversial omission from the1937-1938 Kangaroos squad, Narvo received a belated call-up when Easts’ Joe Pearce broke his leg during a tour match in NZ. He proved a revelation, playing four Tests, two each against Great Britain and France, whom he tormented with his attacking play from around the rucks.
Upon returning to Australia in 1938, Narvo moved back to Norths Newcastle but continued to play representative football from the bush. WW2 prevented Narvo earning from building upon his four Test caps but that doesn’t mean he stopped representing his country. A member of the RAAF, Narvo spent the war as a physical trainer and a boxing and paratroop instructor.
It was during this period that he experienced the crowning achievements of his sporting career. In 1943, while stationed with the RAAF in Richmond, not only did Narvo become Australia’s heavyweight boxing champion, he also returned to Newtown and played a starring role in the Bluebags’ crushing Grand Final 34-7 win over North Sydney.
After captaining NSW in 1945, Narvo joined St George in 1946 as captain-coach, leading them to a narrow 13-12 grand final loss to Balmain. Going back to the bush in 1948, he played consecutive seasons with the Cootamundra and Camden before having a third and final stint with Newtown in 1949.
Moving back to the Hunter Valley, Narvo sadly passed away in 1958 aged just 45, however, his legacy was carried on at Henson Park by his son Frank, who played 97 first grade games for the club between 1954 and 1960.
A keen cricket player and cyclist, Herb’s legendary status in rugby league has also been acknowledged by his naming in both Newtown’s and the Newcastle Rugby League’s teams of the century as well as the National Rugby League’s Hall of Fame.