Vale John David Brockhoff, one of rugby union’s finest

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert


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    John O'Neill is welcomed home by former Wallabies coach David Brockhoff. AAP Image/Sergio Dionisio

    “Brock” was passionate about his rugby – and rugby revered him. David Brockhoff died yesterday, aged 83, having given a lifetime to the 15 man code that kickstarted with three years in The Scots College first XV. A rare feat.

    A Life Member of the Australian and NSW Rugby Unions, he was an eight-capped Wallaby, with 26 games in the then coveted green jersey with gold, 14 caps for NSW, and 95 games for Sydney Uni, as a very loose breakaway – a “sea-guller’.

    But when he became a 10 man war-of-attrition rugby coach, centres and wingers suffered pneumonia through lack of possession. They became experienced chasers.

    That was the “Brock” way, and it worked a treat.

    He’s rightfully been given the credit for turning Wallaby fortunes as coach.

    “Brock” took over in 1974 at a time when the Wallabies had lost 26 of their last 33 internationals, with two drawn.

    They were the easybeats of Test rugby.

    And the renaissance started with the two-Test home series against England in 1975.

    The first was at the SCG, winning 16-9 playing superb rugby. And it’s as vivid as if it happened yesterday, with “Brock”, ARU delegate Peter Falk, and myself with arms around each other’s shoulders in the shed, crying our eyes out.

    The Wallabies had actually beaten England for the first time on home soil, and emotions were running high.

    “The Battle of Ballymore” second Test is cemented in international rugby folklore.

    Wallaby prop Stu MacDougall and hooker Peter Horton bunged on the stink to end all stinks early in the game, but it was England’s prop Mike Burton who was sent off.

    To this day, it’s inconceivable MacDougall and Horton got away with it, but the disruptive ploy worked wonders.

    “Brock’s” boys cruised home 30-21 to clinch the series.

    The Wallabies were no longer in the international wilderness, and it was “Brock” who led the way out of the tunnel into the light.

    Winning was his specialty, and he embued that “W” spirit into every team he coached, with Easts, Sydney Uni, NSW, and the Wallabies.

    But that’s only part of the Dave Brockhoff story.

    He was an integral member of the 1949 Wallabies that regained the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1934 with an 11-6 win at Wellington’s Athletic Park and 16-9 at Auckland’s Eden Park.

    Trevor Allan was the skipper of a team that included Roy Cawsey, Nev Emery – cricketer Phil Emery’s father – Keith Cross, Col Windon, and Nick Shehadie, with Rex Mossop on debut.

    And “Brock” was the coach of the 1979 Wallabies that held aloft the coveted trophy, ending the 30-year drought at the SCG with a tryless 12-6 success in atrocious conditions.

    Mark Loane was the captain, with Greg Cornelsen, Tony Shaw, Stan Pilecki, Ray Price, Chris Handy, Andy Slack, Geoff Shaw, Brendan Moon, Paul McLean, Tony Melrose, and Peter Carson on debut.

    In those three decades, the Wallabies did it tough, winning only 35 internationals but losing 78 and drawing five. The All Blacks won all nine of their meetings with the Wallabies in a period where World War 2 cancelled out all rugby.

    Tonight at the ANZ Stadium, the Waratahs will be wearing black armbands to salute their undisputed number one supporter – the Waratahs’ father figure.

    But if the Waratahs beat the Brumbies and head off to either New Zealand or South Africa for a sudden-death finals appearance, it will be the first time a Waratah Super side won’t be farewelled at the airport by “Brock”. Or welcomed home by the same great man.

    An institution.

    I’ll miss his often-asked question over the last five decades of “What do you think D?”

    The answer is easy.

    It’s always been an honour, a privilege, and a pleasure to be a close friend of David Brockhoff, whose loyalty to those around him, on and off the rugby field, was indicative of the man. Unshakeable.

    So rest in peace, “Brock”. You have done wife, Claire, sons John and Peter, and daughter Julia proud; you’ve done rugby proud; and yourself proud.

    But of all the countless people who have known “Brock” over the years, the last person he would ever think of would be himself.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • June 18th 2011 @ 7:22am
      Frank O'Keeffe said | June 18th 2011 @ 7:22am | ! Report


      I might have to re-watch Phillip Derriman’s delightful documentary ‘The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby’ to remember Brock. That series really highlighted the utter lows Australian rugby dug itself out of in the 70s. Brock was a huge part of that with his ‘step forward’ approach.

      That game against England in 1975 looked brutal. I liked what John Hipwell said when he noted what Australia lacked in the forwards they offset with a little ‘fire in the belly’ which Brock lit. The stories behind his pre-match speech were interesting on that one.

      Obviously the highpoint of his career will be that Bledisloe Cup win too. Kind of the perfect way to end the 70s for Australia after so much effort.

      We’ll also remember him for his sayings…

      “No Sydney Habour bridges” – when he wanted flat passes.

      “Wind through wheat” – I have no idea what this means.

      “Dockyard brawl” – each lineout

      “Row of ministers” – lineout in your own 22. No penalties!

      “Lock the bully out of the gate” – get off to a good start

      • June 19th 2011 @ 11:56pm
        Paul Rigby said | June 19th 2011 @ 11:56pm | ! Report

        David and a bunch of no nonsense willing players were the start of what Australian rugby is today. The days of the winning Sydney team, the innovative country rugby side. David was at the forefront of making Australian Rugby great. Another one of his sayings for smashing the opposition when he did guest coaching at Easts “like a sledge hammer through the David Jones windows”. David’s family can be justly proud of this great man.

    • Columnist

      June 18th 2011 @ 8:42am
      Spiro Zavos said | June 18th 2011 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Brock was just a great man, and not merely a great man of rugby. He loved the game, he loved everyone involved in the game. He was generous with his time and his passion. It is well-documented how he was always at the airport, whether it was early in the morning or late at night, week days or weekends, to send off Waratahs and Wallabies sides and then welcome them home. And it didn’t matter what the result was.
      This generosity of spirit extended to all levels of the game. The first rugby article I wrote for the SMH about rugby detailed the difference between the New Zealand attitude to rucking and the Australian, at that time less ferocious and effective approach. I got a phone call from Brock. He set up a meeting where we discussed rugby matters insatiably. Then he invited me to an annual drinks with a group of good old boys, including Sir Nicholas Shehadie, where we would sit around a long table in a Mosman pub and Brock would ask us our thoughts on the latest rugby issues.
      Always dapper, always concerned about one’s family, brilliant (the word Greg Growden used in his obituary) in his use of the language, polished, kindly and most of all always good for a great hearty laugh, Brock was a one-off, a true legend. It was always a pleasure to be in his company.
      Vale Brock, you did yourself and all of us proud.

    • June 18th 2011 @ 9:18am
      Alan Hill said | June 18th 2011 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Lovely tribute, David.

      I could quibble about your use of “that” when “who” is called for, but pronoun disease afflicts most Australian sports writers.

      I could also point out that the Wallabies’ 12-6 defeat of the All Blacks in 1979 occurred on a fine and mild day, and on a firm SCG track. Also, Ray Price was long gone to league by 1979.

      But so what? Dave Brockhoff was a truly great man of rugby, one whose loyalty and passion put fair-weather fans to shame. It’s a cliche, but we won’t see his like again.

    • June 18th 2011 @ 11:15am
      cookie said | June 18th 2011 @ 11:15am | ! Report

      My first memory of ‘Brock’ was when i was a schoolboy at Scots and he came to help coach some sessions..
      He had his trademark towel around his neck and being the first time i’d ever seen him i thought who the hell is this?
      His passion rubbed off on every lad but especially the forwards..
      I clearly remember his obsession with body height around the rucks and mauls, barking out orders that reverberated around the grounds.

      Great bloke and probably the most passionate rugby fan i’ve known.

    • June 18th 2011 @ 1:54pm
      Frank O'Keeffe said | June 18th 2011 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

      Vale Rex Mossop too.

    • June 18th 2011 @ 2:28pm
      Johnno said | June 18th 2011 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

      Vale Rex mossop and and Vale Dave Brockhoff. The moose for all you moose fans, i liked him for his time was great tv entertainment, but in modern times he is to politically incorrect, but he was entertaining in his time thats for sure. There is a funny video clips of him on YOUTUBE some really hilarious ones i will tell you about to check it out it is actually very hilarious , as i t is live thats what makes it so funny.
      1) rex mossop is invited on the steve vizard show late 1980’s and there is this english gay comedian a then young julian clary. Julian Claiy is in a dress or something outrageous like boy george style clothing. rex Mossop comes on dressed in really you no general conservative clothes as if he is going to dinner at an RSL club or a leagues club, just standard clothes, and Julian politely puts his hand out to shake his, Rex refuses and says stuff along the lines of your not a real man im not shaking that, the crowd ar laughing at the awkwardness of Rex next to julian , and steve vizard is bating him, and he is insulting both julian and steve vizard with lots of politically incorrect terms that maybe only that Sam Newman seems to be able to get away with today. Really funny live tv watching moose and julian clary form such different beliefs having a live argument on national tv, and the awkwardness of it.
      2) other one is watching Rex having a young Mario Fenech on his tv show. A young falcon looks so funny dressed in a tacky 1980’s suit and there talking about matches at the old school venues like Henson park and redfern oval, vintage stuff.
      3) Rex loses it on air when a back set failed on top of him at the SCG he goes really angry and swears and abuses the production staff hilarious.
      RIP MOOSE AND DAVE Brockhoff.

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