Ex-Canterbury NRL coach Steve Folkes dies

Canterbury rugby league legend and premiership-winning NRL coach Steve Folkes has died aged 59, reportedly from a heart attack.

Folkes, who also played in four Canterbury premiership-winning sides during the 1980s, coached the Bulldogs between 1998 and 2008 and took them to their last title in 2004.

"Steve played such a major part in the history of the Bulldogs, both as a player and coach, and was without doubt one of the giants of the club," chief executive Andrew Hill said.

As a player, Folkes was regarded as a hard-training back-rower who appeared in six grand finals for the Bulldogs, including their 1980, 1984, 1985 and 1988 successes.

He also played five Tests for Australia and nine State of Origins for NSW between 1986 and 1988 to go with his 245 games for the Bulldogs.

He moved into Canterbury's coaching ranks, taking the side to the 1998 NRL grand final in his first season in charge before claiming the title six years later.

During his 11 seasons at the helm he coached players like Johnathan Thurston, Steve Price, Hazem El Masri, Andrew Ryan and Sonny Bill Williams.

"Steve symbolised everything that the Bulldogs stand for and was respected throughout the game for his toughness and determination," Hill said.

"He never took a backward step and was loved by the fans for his courage and commitment to the club.

"His legacy as a Bulldog and what he did for the club will never be forgotten and our hearts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time."

Former teammate Terry Lamb led the chorus of praise for Folkes who he described as a consummate trainer and respected by all at Belmore.

"He was a fitness fanatic, people loved him, I don't think there's too many people who spoke badly about Steve Folkes," Lamb said.

"Tough on the field, he epitomised what the club was.

"In 2004, we weren't supposed to win it. In 1998 he took the team to the grand final and got beaten by the Broncos and they probably should have won the game - but it wasn't to be.

"He instilled in the players respect. If you walked in and didn't say hello, he'd be filthy on that."

Folkes' wife Karen, the daughter of Bulldogs patriarch Peter 'Bullfrog' Moore, died almost five years ago to the day.

Bulldogs officials, his former teammates and players came together on Tuesday to pay tribute.

"Rest easy folksey. Thoughts are with the family. 2004 what a season," Williams posted on Twitter.

Most recently, he coached the Australian women's side between 2014 and 2016, and was set to coach the Moss Vale Dragons in Group Six country rugby league this year.

"I've known Steve for a long time. He was a good friend, and a very well respected and cherished part of the Bulldogs club," NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.