‘Dagger in the heart’: Immortal’s death rocks NRL

The most influential names in rugby league have paid tribute to original Immortal Bob Fulton, who’s shock passing has crushed the NRL community. TRIBUTES FOR A LEGEND

Rugby league legend Bob Fulton is being remembered as a giant of the sport whose achievements may never be surpassed.

One of rugby league’s original four Immortals, Fulton died on Sunday morning, at the age of 74, following a lengthy battle with cancer.

His death has shocked the rugby league world with emotional tributes being shared by former teammates, colleagues and football fans from Australia, England and New Zealand.

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Fulton had kept his cancer plight private with only his closest family and friends aware of his condition.

He was surrounded by loving wife Anne, sons Scott and Brett, daughter Kristie and close friend and former Eastern Suburbs captain Royce Ayliffe, when he passed away.

Fulton’s long-time mate and 2GB radio colleague Ray Hadley broke down in tears as he shared the news of the football legend’s passing on Sunday.

Fulton had worked alongside Hadley for 32 years with the Continuous Call Team, forming an unbreakable bond on and off the airwaves, before he retired from radio at the start of 2020.

“I’ve announced some sad things on radio but this could be the saddest… I’m going to miss him, he was a great man… the most loyal friend I’ve ever had. He’ll be sadly missed,” Hadley said.

Fulton’s achievements as a rugby league great are without peer — the game’s only figure to have won premiership titles and an Ashes series as a player, captain and coach.

ARL Commission Chairman Peter V’landys described the loss of the former Manly, Eastern Suburbs, NSW and Test player as devastating.

“Today rugby league has lost a true legend of our game,’’ V’landys said.

“The word legend is used a lot in tributes, but Bob was a genuine legend of rugby league.

“He was an original Immortal, a Kangaroo, a Blue and a club legend of Manly, winning three premierships as a player, including Man of the Match in the 1973 grand final.

“As a coach he led the Kangaroos to two World Cup victories and Manly to two Premierships.

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“He was also a great promoter of our game. His role on the Continuous Call Team over many years provided great humour and insight to fans every weekend.

“Bob will forever be part of rugby league’s DNA and our game is richer for having had Bob part of it.

“Today we’ve lost a giant of our game. On behalf of the rugby league community I send our deepest condolences to Bob’s family.”

Fulton will always be revered as the greatest Sea Eagles player of all-time, playing 213 games for the club.

Fittingly, a minute silence was held prior to the Sea Eagles clash with Parramatta on Sunday with every Manly player also wearing black armbands.

“As the only person to both captain and coach the Sea Eagles to premierships, he will be forever remembered as one of our all-time greats,’’ Sea Eagles CEO Scott Penn said.

“We are forever in Bob’s debt for his passion and determination to make the Sea Eagles the best in the league.’’

Born in England and raised in Wollongong, Fulton joined Manly as an 18-year-old.

Such was his talent as both a centre and five-eighth, Fulton spent his entire 11 years with the Sea Eagles playing only in first grade.

Fulton won premierships with Manly in 1972, 1973 and 1976, when he captained the Sea Eagles to victory in his final game for the club.

In major news at the time, Fulton accepted a rich offer – of around $30,000 – from businessman Kerry Packer to join Easts.

Packer and Fulton had formed a mateship in the years prior to the star’s defection from Manly to Easts.

After two seasons playing with Easts, Fulton then turned to coaching, steering Manly to premiership titles in 1987 and 1996, and coaching Australia from 1989 to 1998.

Fulton remained a powerful and respected figure within the game even in his retirement.

He held sway with NRL administrators, who both welcomed and feared his strong opinion, while he was also a senior advisor to former NSW State of Origin coaches Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart.

Fulton’s 2GB colleagues broke down in tears when discussing his influence.

“Bob and I were direct opposites in a lot of ways, he was very fit, an Immortal and had a different sense of humour but we hit it off,” Brohman said.

“We had our blues, but when he finished working here (2GB), he said ‘I just loved working with you’ and that’s something I have always cherished.

“It is just so hard.”

Continuous Call team commentator David Morrow talked about Fulton’s impact.

“I’m blown away because he’s been a big part of me ever since I came to Sydney in 1980 as a broadcaster.

“Geez there’s some players that owe their careers to him.

“It is like a dagger in the heart.”

Manly legend Mark Spudd Carroll paid tribute to the man that lured him to the Sea Eagles.

“Without Bob Fulton I wouldn’t have won a comp and I wouldn’t have played for Australia and he was like my second dad,” Carroll said.

“When I heard the news I went cold. It is very emotional.

“1990 we went on the Kangaroos tour and what a tour that was. I was an Emu I didn’t play any Test footy, but Bozo made it so fun representing Australia.

“I then had the opportunity to be coached by him on a weekly basis. He taught me so much about rugby league.

“But he made it fun. We trained hard and we played hard and Bozo is going to be highly missed.”

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