Bob Abbott was a humble, well liked and hard working man, who gave more than 50 years to Rugby League. He passed away aged 90, in Kareena Private Hospital from pneumonia.
As a Vice-President of Cronulla Sutherland, he played a major role in the Sharks being admitted to the NSWRL first grade competition in 1967 and was the club’s first delegate to the governing body. In 1975, he managed the Australian team in the World Series and a few years later, he became a Vice-President, then a Life Member, of the NSWRL.
In 1983, he was appointed as the first General Manager of the Australian Rugby League. As well as these things, Bob was involved in the introduction of six tackle football, he was behind the scenes for many years with Grand Final Day promotions and entertainment and he worked with Senator Ron McAuliffe in establishing the State of Origin matches. Sharks fans were elated when the club signed English legends, Tommy Bishop and Cliff Watson. Bob was at the forefront of negotiations with the duo and flew to England in late 1970, with Cronulla secretary Arthur Winn, to sign Watson. With Bishop and Watson showing the way to their younger team-mates, Cronulla deservedly reached the 1973 Grand Final.
As well as the Sharks Football club, Bob gave many years service to the Leagues club and was a Vice-President of both bodies. From the beginning, he was a loyal and staunch Sharks supporter and he was filled with pride when they won the 2016 Grand Final.
Born in Balmain, he played rugby league as a schoolboy and then in the 1940s, played with Rose Bay for several seasons in the strong CYO competition. He married his wife Norma in February 1952 and soon after, the couple moved to the Sutherland Shire. When the Cronulla Caringbah club was established in 1963, it played in the inter district or second division competition. Bob was an official with this new club from the early days and from the beginning had dreams of playing in the first grade Premiership. For the next few years, Bob and several others worked non-stop towards this goal and their efforts were rewarded when Cronulla Sutherland played their first top grade match at the old Sydney Sports Ground on Sunday 2 April 1967. The Sharks won this first ever match, beating Eastern Suburbs 11-5.
Bob was devastated when he lost his wife in January 2017, just a month short of their 65th wedding anniversary. The couple had retired to the NSW Far North Coast in 2003 and the Sharks man quickly became involved with the Northern Rivers branch of the Men of League Foundation, becoming the Patron.
“The Men of League was very dear to Dad and he really enjoyed being involved in the organising of race days, golf tournaments, luncheons etc, Bob’s son Peter said.”
He returned to Cronulla around Easter this year and leased an apartment close to Shark Park.
Bob and Norma had five children Michael, Peter, Elizabeth, David and Adrian. They also have 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Rest in Peace, Bob.