The South Sydney Rabbitohs are mourning the passing of former player, director and community member, Mr Solomon Bellear AM, who passed away from a heart attack on Wednesday night, aged 66.

Mr Bellear, a proud Bundjalung man originally from Mullumbimby on the north coast of NSW, was graded by the Rabbitohs in the late 1970s, also representing the Redfern All Blacks in the Koori Knockout competition.

Sol went on to become a director of the South Sydney Football Club between 2002 and 2006, and was a mentor for the Rabbitohs’ Indigenous players and staff up to the day of his passing.

Sol was a strong supporter of Rugby League, managing the Indigenous Dreamtime team in 2008 and maintaining his support of his beloved Rabbitohs for the years after his official involvement with the Club came to an end.

Mr Bellear was an influential and respected elder in the Indigenous community, standing up for the rights and fighting issues on behalf of his people prominently since 1970.

Mr Bellear was the first chairman of the Aboriginal Legal Service when it was founded in the early 1970s and joined the Board of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern in 1975, an organisation of which he eventually became chairman.

Sol was also a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) since 1990 and was elected as a councillor of the Sydney region and commissioner for the NSW Metropolitan Zone before serving as deputy chairman up until 1994.

Sol also consulted to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council for over a decade, managing the media and marketing unit.

Mr Bellear became a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the Aboriginal community, particularly in the area of Aboriginal health, in 1999.

Sol will be remembered at South Sydney as a respected man of great principle who stood up for, and supported, his people and who had a great love for his family and his football club.

On behalf of everyone connected with the Rabbitohs, we pass on our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family, friends and the Indigenous community surrounding Mr Sol Bellear at this very difficult time.

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The NRL released the following statement regarding Mr Bellear’s passing:

The NRL today paid tribute to Sol Bellear AM who has passed away.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said Mr Bellear was best known for his tenacity in fighting for Aboriginal Land Rights.

His campaign for justice was recognised in 1999, when Sol was awarded an Order of Australia for services to the Aboriginal community.

Mr Greenberg said Mr Bellear’s other great passion was Rugby League.

He played grade for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and served as a Director of the Club.

“Sol never lost that passion for the game and was a key figure in the success of the Koori knockout tournament,” Mr Greenberg said.

“He was also a renowned mentor of young Indigenous players, many of who went on to play grade and for the Indigenous All Stars.

“He was a big figure in the game and he will be missed.

“The Rugby League community sends its condolences to family, friends and all those who worked so closely with him.”