Rugby league is in mourning after one of the game’s greatest ever players, Bob Fulton, died, aged 74.
- Bob Fulton was named as one of the sport’s first four Immortals
- Fulton won three Premierships at Manly and played 219 of his 269 first-grade games at the club
- Fulton coached Australia to victory in the 1992 and 1995 World Cup
The former Kangaroos coach and star played 35 Test matches for Australia and was head coach from 1989-98.
Fulton, famously nicknamed “Bozo”, made his debut with Manly in 1966, and was part of the club’s first three premiership wins — including in 1976 as captain in what was his last game for the club.
The centre then made a shock switch to Eastern Suburbs, playing the final 50 of his last 269 games there.
One of the sport’s original four Immortals when the concept was unveiled in 1985, Fulton also played 35 Tests for Australia and 16 matches for NSW in the pre-State of Origin era.
But that was only the beginning of Fulton’s influence over the sport.
He returned to Manly as coach, winning titles in two separate stints at the club in 1987 and 1996.
The English-born ball-player, who grew up in Wollongong, also had success at an international level, coaching Australia to 1992 and 1995 World Cup wins with victories in 32 of his 39 games in charge.
He remains the only player to win a Premiership and Ashes series as a player, captain and coach.
Fulton’s former colleagues on 2GB radio broke down as they delivered the news on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a very sad day for the Fulton family and rugby league generally,” Ray Hadley said.
“I’ve announced some sad things on radio but this could be the saddest.
Manly coach Des Hasler won two premierships with the Sea Eagles as a player under Fulton, who also coached him at the international level.
He said Fulton deserved to be remembered as one of the greats of rugby league.
“Bozo was a stalwart and an absolute legend of the game,” Hasler told Channel Nine before the Sea Eagles played Parramatta this afternoon.
“To many of us he was a friend, a mentor. His legend, that he brought to the game while he was playing and in his later years as a coach and administrator, will never be forgotten.
“He just brought that dynamic … so it is certainly a day of sadness for the immediate family and for the many people he touched over his lifespan.”
Hasler said Fulton brought a remarkable competitive spirit to his role as a coach.
“He was a winner, there was no doubt about that,” Hasler said.
‘A genuine legend’
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said the sport had lost a legend.
“The word legend is used a lot in tributes, but Bob was a genuine legend of rugby league,” Mr V’landys said.
“Bob will forever be part of rugby league’s DNA and our game is richer for having had Bob be part of it.”
Grandstand NRL expert John Gibbs said: “It is very sad. I played and worked with Bob, and he also coached me.
“Condolences to his family.”
Fellow Wollongong junior John Dorahy never had the chance to play alongside Fulton.
But Dorahy will never forget playing against Fulton when he joined Western Suburbs in 1974.
“I couldn’t believe how strong he was — when you went to tackle him, he would just bump you off,” he said.
“It taught me a valuable lesson — all the quality players are strong, they are skillful and they can do just about anything on the park and that is what Bozo had the capability of doing.
“He was a quality player, he knew what the game was about, he knew what was happening on the park and where players would be and where he should be.
“He is a legend of the game and in the Hall of Fame and rightly so, and he will be sadly missed that is for sure.
“Bobby had that innate ability to understand the game and he was able to articulate it to the various players, whether they be forwards or backs.”