Footy legend Terry Hill dies aged just 52 - throwing the rugby league world into shock

The footy world is in a state of shock and mourning after Manly, NSW and Kangaroos great Terry Hill died aged just 52.

The Sea Eagles legend suffered a heart attack in the Philippines, where he had been spending more time in recent years as he worked with a charity, News Corp reported.

Hill was married to a Filipino woman and lived in Homebush in Sydney’s west at the time of his death, according to the publication.  

Terry Hill (pictured playing for Manly in 2005) rose to the very top of the game in a long and highly successful career

Born in Newtown, Hill (pictured running the ball for Manly) was one of the top players in the world at his peak and represented NSW and Australia on multiple occasions

Born in Newtown, Hill (pictured running the ball for Manly) was one of the top players in the world at his peak and represented NSW and Australia on multiple occasions

Hill played 246 games in a club career that saw him run out for Souths, Easts, Wests, Manly and the Wests Tigers, as well as playing 14 matches for NSW and another nine for his country.

Born in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Newtown, he made his first-grade debut for Souths in 1990, shifted to Easts in 1991, then to Western Suburbs in 1992 before finding his footy home with Manly in 1994.

He excelled in the centres for the Sea Eagles for six seasons, helping guide them to premiership glory in 1996, then returning to the club to finish his career in 2005 after playing 49 games for the Wests Tigers across four years.

Known as one of the game’s most colourful characters, he was a regular on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show during its most successful years and will also be remembered by fans for his star turns in ads for Lowes menswear.

Nicknamed 'Tezza', Hill was one of footy's most colourful characters and became a regular on The Footy Show (pictured) at the peak of its popularity, as well as starring in well-known TV commercials for the Lowes menswear chain (below)

Nicknamed ‘Tezza’, Hill was one of footy’s most colourful characters and became a regular on The Footy Show (pictured) at the peak of its popularity, as well as starring in well-known TV commercials for the Lowes menswear chain (below)

Hill was at the centre of one of the modern game’s defining dramas when he was drafted to play for Easts in 1991 despite previously signing to join Wests.

He and other players mounted legal action against the game’s then-governing body, the NSWRL, for restraint of trade and won their case in the High Court after a long battle.

‘Those players were very brave men because they had no financial support and they all put their name on the line, which meant they put their homes on the line, because if they had lost the League would have come after them for costs,’ footy great turned barrister Kevin Ryan said of Hill and his fellow stars.

Hill – nicknamed ‘Tezza’ – made his representative debut for City in 1993, the same year he broke into the Blues State of Origin team for the first time.  

Hill is pictured, centre, with Beau Ryan (left) in a more recent appearance on The Footy Show after he'd retired from rugby league. There was never a dull moment when he was on screen

Hill is pictured, centre, with Beau Ryan (left) in a more recent appearance on The Footy Show after he’d retired from rugby league. There was never a dull moment when he was on screen

The powerful centre switched to Wests Tigers (pictured) in 2000, but returned home to Brookvale to finish his first-grade career with Manly in 2005

The powerful centre switched to Wests Tigers (pictured) in 2000, but returned home to Brookvale to finish his first-grade career with Manly in 2005

He was selected for his country for the first time for the 1994 Kangaroo tour, and scored a try when he made his international debut against New Zealand in 1995. 

The leading try scorer in the ARL competition at the height of the Super League war in 1997, he switched to the Tigers in 2000 but could only manage 49 matches in four seasons with the club, before returning to Brookvale to play the last 16 games of his first-grade career in 2005.   

He then gave back to the sport that made him famous by coaching bush clubs in Umina and Kincumber.

Hill’s Manly teammate and fellow league legend David Gillespie revealed he saw his mate in the Philippines shortly before his death as they raised money for an orphanage.

‘I was with Terry only last week,’ he told the publication.

‘He was his usual self, the life of the party.

‘Terry was fine and had everyone in stitches at the fundraiser. His death is sudden, unexpected and incredibly sad. He was a very generous person.

‘As a player, Terry was relentless, tough and uncompromising. He would give it and take it.’

Hill's fellow Footy Show star, league great Darryl Brohman, posted a tribute to his mate after news of his death became public (pictured)

Hill’s fellow Footy Show star, league great Darryl Brohman, posted a tribute to his mate after news of his death became public (pictured)

Other teammates of Hill’s also remembered him after hearing the shocking news. 

‘He’d make it personal on the field, but not off it,’ his Tigers teammate Joel Caine said on Wednesday.

‘One of the great sledgers. He always had a quick-witted line.’

Souths great Craig Coleman said: ‘Terry was one of the game’s real characters and a great player.

‘I’d watched him come through Souths as a kid. He was a proud Souths junior and we always knew he was destined for big things.’

Hill’s teammate and later coach at Manly, Des Hasler told Daily Mail Australia: ‘So young. I believe he had a few health issues. He had a pretty decorated career. A real larrikin. He certainly enjoyed his footy.’ 

The Sea Eagles paid tribute to the club great in a statement released shortly after news of his death became public. 

‘Terry was a much loved and respected figure at not only the Sea Eagles, but across rugby league, where he played for several clubs,” Manly CEO Tony Mestrov said.

Hill won the 1996 premiership with Manly and was the top tryscorer in the ARL competition during the height of the Super League war in 1997

Hill won the 1996 premiership with Manly and was the top tryscorer in the ARL competition during the height of the Super League war in 1997

‘On behalf of everyone at the Sea Eagles, we offer our deepest and sincere condolences to Terry’s family and friends during this difficult time.

‘Terry will always be fondly remembered at Manly.’

Ex-Manly skipper and coach Geoff Toovey – who played alongside Hill – remembered him as a ‘good friend’ who ‘did a lot of good things for his team-mates’.

Former footy star turned media personality Daryl Brohman voiced his shock and sorrow at the news shortly after it broke.

‘This is soo sad. Originally I had my doubts as to if I like him or not. However once I spent time with him at both Lowes and The Footy Show my respect for him grew. He was a larrikin but deep down a good guy. RIP Tezza,’ he wrote. 

Souths and Wests also released tributes to Hill on Wednesday, along with Greyhound Racing NSW, which hailed him as an ‘owner and major supporter of the sport’.

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