Devastating scenes as Bob Fulton farewelled at state funeral

·5-min read
Seen here, mourners at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney to farewell Bob Fulton.
Hundreds gathered at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney to farewell Bob Fulton on Friday. Pic: AAP

Even in his last days, Bob Fulton remained the ultimate competitor and professional.

One of rugby league's first four immortals, Fulton was given a fitting farewell on Friday with his state funeral at St Mary's Cathedral.

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The former Kangaroos captain, coach and selector died last month at the age of 73 in news that left the rugby league community devastated.

Fulton - a rugby league 'Immortal' - had been battling cancer and passed away surrounded by friends and family.

At a state funeral service in Sydney on Friday, hundreds gathered to farewell a giant of the sport.

For more than an hour friends, family and former teammates spoke of the way Fulton changed the game and was determined to be the best.

Not just for his sport as a player, coach and administrator, but also for his family.

"Dad was a trainer, he was in the gym up to a week before his passing," son Brett revealed. 

Pictured here, a teary Brett Fulton watches on as a casket carrying his father Bob is loaded onto a hearse.
A teary Brett Fulton watches on as a casket carrying his father Bob is loaded onto a hearse. Pic: AAP

"I asked: What are you doing? And he said: I have to get stronger for mum.

"Dad loved competition. He was the most competitive person I ever met. From cards to arm curls, he would challenge everybody and win most the time."

A who's who of the rugby league world attended the memorial service at St Mary's Cathedral, where Fulton's family led emotional tributes to the great man.

Among the hundreds of mourners were Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, league legend Mal Meninga, Manly owner Scott Penn and the club's godfather Ken Arthurson.

Both Manly's NRL squad and the NSW State of Origin team gave him a guard of honour out of the cathedral while a flag flew in his honour.

A guard of honour is formed outside the church for Bob Fulton's funeral service.
Players formed a guard of honour outside the cathedral. Pic: AAP
Pictured here, Manly Sea Eagles club legend Ken Arthurson.
Ken Arthurson, regarded as the godfather of the Manly club, was one of hundreds of attendees. Pic: AAP

Thousands more watched on a live stream as club icon Peter Peters, broadcasters Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and son Brett spoke.

"I think the congregation here today is a metaphor for the life of Bob Fulton," Jones said.

"There are people here today who knew Bob well. There are people who knew him marginally well. There are perhaps others who never met him.

"This remarkable man entered the lives of everyone, by his accomplishments and through his modesty and self-effacement."

Son hails Fulton in teary address

His son and former league player Brett Fulton, described the man affectionately nicknamed "Bozo" as his "hero" and best mate.

"From a young age I had a desire to want to make you proud. I hope I did that," Brett Fulton said in a teary address.

"He was the centre of our universe, he would talk to us multiple times a day.

"You knew it was dad calling because it was a private number and he would always greet us with a familiar, 'Listen'.

"[His grandchildren] will never forget him or the lessons learned."

Fulton made his debut with Manly in 1966, and was part of the club's first three premiership wins - including in 1976 as captain.

Bob Fulton is seen here at the 2012 NRL Grand Final.
Bob Fulton at the 2012 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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 initial 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.

"This is a very sad moment for many of us but in a sense, no one ever dies until the memories fade away, and we have very special memories of Bob," Jones said while choking back tears in a stirring eulogy.

Fulton 'rose to become a legend'

ARLC chair V'landys said before the service that while it was day of great sorrow, he also saw it as a chance to celebrate a special man.

“It is a very sad day, certainly a very sad day for the family foremost, and our hearts go out to them,” V’landys said on 2GB.

“But it will be a funny day, because Bozo was a joker, that’s how he got his name. What an inspiration he is to everybody, he was a migrant from England, lived in a fibro home in Unanderra, rose to play for Australia and become a legend.

Other dignitaries in attendance were Manly legends such as Cliff Lyons and Geoff Toovey, as well as current coach Des Hasler - who all played under Fulton at the Sea Eagles.

In this picture, Sea Eagles legends Steve Menzies and Cliff Lyons at Bob Fulton's funeral.
Sea Eagles legends Steve Menzies and Cliff Lyons were among the many mourners. Pic: AAP

The last memory of Fulton, however, belonged to his family and son Brett's heartwarming anecdote revealed the type of character his father was. 

"The day before he passed he woke to a nurse beside his bedside," Brett said.

"She said what do you do for a job. He said: 'My job is to look after my family'.

"Dad was the master of fun and good times. But most of all Dad is my hero. He is my mentor and my best mate."

with AAP

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