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The Bob Fulton I knew was terrifying, intimidating but fiercely loyal, writes Andrew Prentice

Growing up on Sydney’s northern beaches, anyone sport obsessed knew who Bob ‘Bozo’ Fulton was.

I was no different, and after landing a dream gig writing sport for the Manly Daily in 2008 as a budding junior sports journalist, our paths soon crossed.

Plenty of colleagues and other scribes were quick to tell me not to get Bozo offside – he knew people from all walks of life and had contacts galore, they said.

Eventually I took on a senior sports role with the newspaper of record on the Sydney’s Northern Beaches, with the daily movements of the Manly Sea Eagles the most crucial ’round’ for my job.

And if Fulton, a highly-respected rugby league Immortal with a fearsome reputation to match, didn’t like a story I had penned, he wasn’t shy in telling me.

The remarkable life of rugby league Immortal Bob ‘Bozo’ Fulton was celebrated in a moving state funeral on Friday

Bob Fulton's casket arrives at the State Funeral for the rugby league immortal at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Frida

Bob Fulton’s casket arrives at the State Funeral for the rugby league immortal at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Frida

Widow Anne Fulton (pictured right)  and family members watch on as the casket of Bob Fulton is loaded into a hearse on Friday at his State Funeral

Widow Anne Fulton (pictured right)  and family members watch on as the casket of Bob Fulton is loaded into a hearse on Friday at his State Funeral

He would point out the Sea Eagles were the sporting fabric of the northern beaches and the ‘Pride of the Peninsula’ for a reason.

What he deemed negative analysis wasn’t an option, or in his opinion newsworthy – even if the team were losing. 

I recall one such piece I wrote about the club being on the verge of signing a journeyman prop in 2013.

The deal wasn’t done yet, but I was told by my contacts it was a matter of time.

Being eager to snare an exclusive, I backed myself and we boldly published the piece the following day.

Imagine my horror when the deal fell over the eleventh hour!

And didn’t Bozo put me in my place quick smart.

The club later released a statement declaring the signing was pure speculation, and to ‘dismiss’ media reports suggesting otherwise.

Bob was a subtle as a sledgehammer, and it was a valuable lesson learnt.

Another time I rang Bozo to confirm a rumour circulating about a high-profile player at the time.

After answering his phone with the usual ‘Yep’ I probed him with a few questions, to which he soon replied – ‘don’t print speculation Andrew, you will end up looking like a fool from Palm Beach to Manly.’

Rattled, I sat on the yarn, wishing and praying it wasn’t true.

Of course the rumour turned out to be factually accurate – and once again Bozo had schooled me.

Eventually we became relatively close in a professional sense, and from that moment on the man with a reputation for being ruthless couldn’t have been more helpful. 

Another former colleague recalled a funny story which summed up Fulton’s influence.

The coffin carrying rugby league Immortal Bob Fulton (pictured) arrives at St Mary's Cathedral before his State Funeral

The coffin carrying rugby league Immortal Bob Fulton (pictured) arrives at St Mary’s Cathedral before his State Funeral

Darryl Brohman and Ray Hadley turned out to the funeral to farewell rugby league legend Bob Fulton

Darryl Brohman and Ray Hadley turned out to the funeral to farewell rugby league legend Bob Fulton

Radio tsar Jones labelled Fulton 'remarkable' and outlined how Bob was a great believer in the virtue of sport, through its capacity to unite people

Radio tsar Jones labelled Fulton ‘remarkable’ and outlined how Bob was a great believer in the virtue of sport, through its capacity to unite people

Australian rugby league identity Ken Arthurson turned out to the funeral to pay his respects

Australian rugby league identity Ken Arthurson turned out to the funeral to pay his respects

He called the journalist in question late in the afternoon, looking to get a story on the back page the following day, which happened to be a Saturday, where readership was at its peak.

The brave reporter told Fulton the newspaper deadline had passed as he had a date at a nearby watering hole.

Quick as a flash, Fulton replied he knew the deadline could be stretched to 6pm.

Defeated, the journalist punched out the yarn on Bozo’s insistence – and once again, Fulton emerged triumphant.  

He would have been humbled to receive a State Funeral, with the massive turnout a reflection on how people and the game of rugby league viewed the great man, who close friends playfully dubbed ‘King’.

On Friday morning, Bob ‘Bozo’ Fulton was remembered as a sporting pioneer and rugby league legend in Sydney.

Fulton died on May 23 from cancer at 73, and was laid to rest at St Mary’s Cathedral, where hundreds of mourners paid their respects.

Guests included deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro, former NSW Premier Mike Baird as well as Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’Landys.

Radio identities Ray Hadley and Alan Jones also farewelled the man many regard as one of the greatest ever to play rugby league.

Brad Hazzard arrives at St Mary's Cathedral for the funeral on Friday

Stuart Ayres was counted among the mourners at the funeral

Brad Hazzard and Stuart Ayres were among the politicians were turned up to the funeral to pay their respects 

Guests included deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro, former NSW Premier Mike Baird (pictured) as well as Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V¿Landys

Guests included deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro, former NSW Premier Mike Baird (pictured) as well as Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’Landys

Mourners gathered outside of St Mary's Cathedral, in Sydney, ahead of the funeral for Bob Fulton (pictured veteran Manly great Peter 'Zorba' Peters)

Mourners gathered outside of St Mary’s Cathedral, in Sydney, ahead of the funeral for Bob Fulton (pictured veteran Manly great Peter ‘Zorba’ Peters)

Ray Hadley consoling fellow mourners outside of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Friday

Ray Hadley consoling fellow mourners outside of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Friday

The entire current Manly Sea Eagles NRL squad were on hand to pay their respects, with coach Brad Fittler also getting the NSW Blues State of Origin team to form a guard of honour for Fulton. 

Radio tsar Jones labelled Fulton ‘remarkable’ and outlined how Bob was a great believer in the virtue of sport, through its capacity to unite people. 

Hadley, who worked closely alongside Fulton on radio from the early 1980s onwards, labelled his great mate a ‘life mentor.’ 

Peter ‘Zorba’ Peters, who has known Fulton for 65 years, also spoke glowingly about his lifelong friend, the ‘ten pound Pom.’ 

He recalled their days growing up together in Wollongong and revealed it was obvious from an early age that Fulton ‘was something special.’

Fulton was remembered as a fiercely proud family man, with his three kids – Scott, Brett and Kristie – the lights of his life alongside his beloved wife Anne.

His eight grandkids were also a huge part of his life, as was his time spent in the bush pig hunting or the Northern Territory with close friends in his inner circle.

Kristie Fulton spoke for many when she described her father as ‘the best representation of what a man is and should strive to be.’

Fulton died on May 23 from cancer at, 73, and was laid to rest at St Mary's Cathedral, where hundreds of mourners paid their respects

Fulton died on May 23 from cancer at, 73, and was laid to rest at St Mary’s Cathedral, where hundreds of mourners paid their respects

Commander Piers Chatterton arrives at the State Funeral for rugby league great Bob Fulton

Commander Piers Chatterton arrives at the State Funeral for rugby league great Bob Fulton

New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro was counted among the mourners on Friday

New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro was counted among the mourners on Friday

The Order of Service for the State Funeral held for rugby league immortal Bob Fulton on Friday

The Order of Service for the State Funeral held for rugby league immortal Bob Fulton on Friday

One of Fulton’s sons, Brett, spoke on behalf of his siblings. 

‘Dad was the centre of our universe. He used to always stress the importance of respect and loyalty,’ he told the mourners in the church. 

‘He was my hero and my best mate. I always wanted to make you proud, I hope I did.’ 

Fulton was also ahead of his time. Fiercely driven, he constantly strived for perfection – and demanded the same from his colleagues and players.

He was the first person to captain and then later coach Australia and his five decade involvement in the greatest game of all speaks volumes about his standing in the code. 

Fulton was a hero for many. Russell, a Manly fan for 61 years, was spotted saluting the coffin of the rugby league Immortal as it was brought into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney early on Friday morning ahead of the funeral.

Fulton was also ahead of his time. Fiercely driven, he constantly strived for perfection - and demanded the same from his colleagues and players (pictured, the Order of Service for the State Funeral for Bob Fulton)

Fulton was also ahead of his time. Fiercely driven, he constantly strived for perfection – and demanded the same from his colleagues and players (pictured, the Order of Service for the State Funeral for Bob Fulton)

Mourners from across Sydney and indeed Australia gathered at St Mary's Cathedral from 10.30am to farewell the man many regard as the one of the best players, coaches and indeed sporting administrators, the nation has ever seen

Mourners from across Sydney and indeed Australia gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral from 10.30am to farewell the man many regard as the one of the best players, coaches and indeed sporting administrators, the nation has ever seen

Bob 'Bozo' Fulton was remembered as a sporting pioneer and rugby league legend in a moving State Funeral on Friday in Sydney (pictured, the coffin carrying rugby league legend Bob Fulton before his state funeral on Friday)

Bob ‘Bozo’ Fulton was remembered as a sporting pioneer and rugby league legend in a moving State Funeral on Friday in Sydney (pictured, the coffin carrying rugby league legend Bob Fulton before his state funeral on Friday)

Former NRL boss David Gallop was another to pay his respects to Fulton at St Mary's Cathedral

Former NRL boss David Gallop was another to pay his respects to Fulton at St Mary’s Cathedral

Mourners from across Sydney and indeed Australia gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral from 10.30am to farewell the man many regard as the one of the best players, coaches and indeed sporting administrators, the nation has ever seen.  

Fulton was born in the working-class northern English town of Stockton Heath in Warrington, England, and moved to Australia at age of four.

The Fultons settled in Wollongong, on the NSW south coast, and it didn’t take long for young Robert to become the best player for junior club side Wests Wollongong and then later his school, Dapto High. 

Manly Sea Eagles ‘godfather’ Ken Arthurson signed Fulton as a teenager – and at just 19 he became the youngest captain in the club’s history.

‘I couldn’t tell you how many times over the years when I am asked who is the greatest player in rugby league.. I always give the same answer – Bob Fulton,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘He won countless games virtually on his own for Manly, he was magnificent.

A Manly Sea Eagles fan (pictured) pays his respects to Bob Fulton before his funeral in Sydney

Former rugby league great Robert Fulton is carried into St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Friday

Former rugby league great Robert Fulton is carried into St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Friday

Manly fan Russell stands on the steps of St Mary's Cathedral as he bids an emotional farewell to the rugby league icon

Manly fan Russell stands on the steps of St Mary’s Cathedral as he bids an emotional farewell to the rugby league icon

Fulton is carried into St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney

Fulton's coffin is carried into the cathedral on Friday

Fulton, 73, also coached Australian between 1989 and 1998, with two World Cup triumphs the highlights

‘Bob then went on to have a storied career as a coach, administrator and selector.

‘They don’t make them like Bob anymore, he will never be forgotten.’ 

After agreeing to terms with Manly following his scouting by Arthurson, success quickly followed, with the Sea Eagles winning premierships in 1972, 1973 and 1976.

He then shocked many by defecting to Eastern Suburbs in 1979, but Sydney’s northern beaches lured him back, with Fulton returning to Manly.

Bozo duly won another premiership – this time as a coach in 1987 – in the last rugby league grand final at the Sydney Cricket Ground before then snaring another title in 1996 at the adjoining Sydney Football Stadium.

Fulton also coached Australia between 1989 and 1998, with two World Cup triumphs the highlights.

He was officially named an Immortal in 1981 for his on-field genius, and in 1994 was awarded an Order of Australia in recognition for his service to the sport.

The father of three, proud grandfather and devoted husband to his wife Anne also excelled as a selector and commentator, leaving a legacy in the sport which is unlikely to be matched.

Vale Bob Fulton, rugby league, and Australian sport in general, is poorer for your absence.  

Fulton, more affectionately known as 'Bozo', was born in the working-class northern English town of Stockton Heath in Warrington, England, and moved to Australia at age of four

Fulton, more affectionately known as ‘Bozo’, was born in the working-class northern English town of Stockton Heath in Warrington, England, and moved to Australia at age of four 

Bob Fulton's casket arrives at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Friday after the rugby league legend died at the age of 74

Bob Fulton’s casket arrives at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Friday after the rugby league legend died at the age of 74

The father of three, proud grandfather and devoted husband to his wife Ann also excelled as a selector and commentator, leaving a legacy in the sport which is unlikely to be matched

The father of three, proud grandfather and devoted husband to his wife Ann also excelled as a selector and commentator, leaving a legacy in the sport which is unlikely to be matched

Fulton (pictured) in his playing days with the Manly Sea Eagles, where he won three premierships

Fulton (pictured) is regarded as one of the best players to ever grace a rugby league field

Fulton (pictured) in his playing days with the Manly Sea Eagles, where he won three premierships

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