MEDIA RELEASE Wednesday 5 th December 2006
Rugby League today mourns the passing of one of the sport’s most dedicated and long serving officials, Mr Eric Cox, O.A.M.
A former player, referee, administrator, ‘ground manager’ and until the time of his death an active Vice President of the NSWRL and a member of the NSWRL Leagues Club Board, Eric Cox, was a part of the game’s character for almost 75 years.
His ‘tough as nails’ persona carried through in recent weeks as the 83 year old battled pneumonia, the result of Asbestosis, and then a stroke while still talking of his wish to reach his 75th year in the game at the 2008 World Cup.
Born in Burwood in 1923, Eric Cox began what would be a life-long love affair with the game of rugby league as a Ball Boy in Lismore and then as a player until he signed on with the Royal Australian Navy in 1940.
During World War 2 he saw active service principally on board HMS Kanimbla, and his support for Australia’s servicemen and women remained a fierce passion for his remaining years.
The time also heightened his reputation for self discipline and his insistence on proper procedure. His fierce dedication to both would influence the training of generations of Rugby League’s most senior referees in years to come, while the generosity he showed with his time and experience would leave nobody in doubt about the caring disposition that was the heart of the man.
Remaining in the service after the war, Eric played for Brisbane Valleys as a centre and lock and in Townsville before heading back to Sydney where he coached St George’s President’s Cup team in 1950.
The next year he was awarded his referee’s certificate going on to become a graded referee and a leading figure in both the St George District and NSW Referees’ Associations.
In 1978 he was appointed the NSWRL Director of referees, a post he held for five years.
As the game’s match day presentation became more professional in the 80’s, Eric was the forerunner of the professional ground manager, ensuring that every aspect of game day operations was followed.
Respected by players coaches, stadium staff and officials (despite some often ‘blustery’ confrontations), the old navy man earned the nickname ‘the Bosun’.
Famous for running a particularly `tight ship’, he was noted for his refusal to bend the rules for even the biggest stars.
He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2002 for services to Rugby League as a referee, player, coach and administrator.
Eric is survived by his wife of 59 years Colleen, sons David and Chris and daughter Julie and nine grand children.
“It’s simply the end of an era,” NRL Chief Executive Mr David Gallop said today.
“Eric Cox was just a part of the game that we all connected with and he will be sadly missed.”
ARL Chairman, Mr Colin Love, said that Eric’s contribution to the game could not the overstated:
“He was a life member of the NSWRL, the NSW Referees Association and he was also an important part of our lives in the game.
“Eric’s experience and wisdom assisted many committees and competitions, often without public recognition and he will be sadly missed.” Funeral details will be advised when they become available.