The Sharks mourn the passing of Eric Barnes, a member of the clubs first-ever NSWRL First Grade team in 1967.
Barnes played at lock, in the number eight jersey, in that historic match against Eastern Suburbs at the Sydney Sports Ground, with the Sharks registering an 11-5 victory.
Terry Hughes, his halfback in that first season, compared some of Barnes’s attributes to current Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, although maybe not in body type or size, fondly remembering him as an inspirational teammate.
“He was a tall, wiry character that just worked all day,” Hughes told Sharks.com.au for a 2105 article recalling that first season.
"There wasn't much of him, he was just one of those 110 per cent players. He tackled all day, he ran all day, and just never gave up. He was just so whole-hearted, he really was an inspiration," Hughes said.
"Paul's a big, solid bloke, Eric was a string bean. That was the thing that made it all the more amazing.
"He had the same work rate as 'Gal', but just wasn't as physically big. That's why I think everyone got inspiration just watching him."
Barnes began his first-grade career for North Sydney in 1962, going on to play both finals games for the Bears in 1965, one being a heavy defeat at the hands of the then-mighty St George team, the other a loss coming against Souths in the preliminary final.
Barnes would play in 50 First Grade games for the North Sydney Bears.
In 1967, he joined the Sharks, playing 22 games for the club during that inaugural season, scoring one try.
He returned to the club recently with many of his former teammates to celebrate the 1967 season in a function held at Sharks Leagues during the Club’s 50th anniversary year.
Barnes, who lived on the NSW north coast, was born at the Mater Hospital Sydney on the 17th of October 1940.
His schooling was at Our Lady Of The Rosary Waitara and Saint Pius Chatswood, with Eric completing his building apprenticeship with Sydney Rail. He would later work on The Key Rail Line Sydney.
Prior to playing for the Bears and Sharks, Barnes played with the Hornsby Club and following the 1967 season moved to Tamworth, coaching Tamworth City, the Werris Creek Magpies and the North Tamworth Bears.
The North Tamworth Bears were in the Grand Final in 1980, with Eric, then aged 40, playing as a reserve.
The Sharks offer their sincere condolences to wife Mary-Ann, sister Jan, his children Tony, Stan and Phil, his two grandchildren James and Angus and to the entire Barnes family.
A funeral for Eric Barnes will be held at the Chapel of Hogbin Drive Crematorium and Memorial Gardens, Stadium Drive, Coffs Harbour, on Friday, July 5, commencing at 11.30am.
The family asks in lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Pancare Foundation or Dementia Australia.