Ross Nixon – A real character

When Northern Sydney Welfare Officers Norm Pounder, Fred Jackson and Ken Vessey planned to visit 89 year old Ross Nixon (Men of League Foundation Member #23,554) at his home, they were advised that he was an real character, who had lived an exciting and interesting life. They certainly were not disappointed when they met with Ross to discuss his rugby league playing days and his lifetime activities.

Ross was born in Bathurst, NSW and his family then moved to Bondi, Sydney where he frequented Bondi Beach and became a member of the famous Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club before changing Clubs to join the equally famous Bronte Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. He told us of many funny incidents including in the early 1940’s with the start of Sunday night dances at the Bronte Surf Club, which contrary to the wishes of local Church Groups continued to be held providing relief for hundreds of active servicemen from Australia, England, Dutch and American and gave a start to many promising Australian entertainers/bands. 

Image: Fred Jackson, Ross Nixon and Ken Vessey 

As a 16 year old he worked at the then landmark building of Australian Glass Manufacturers Glasswork Factory in Waterloo, where there was a large rugby league fraternity working there including the late Eddie Burns, the famous Canterbury Bankstown Rugby League Football Club Captain (1935-1950), who was inducted into the Club’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Now Eddie and other workmates encouraged Ross to become involved in playing rugby league because of his size and strength, as soon as possible and not wanting to ignore Eddie’s advice he attended trials at the Sydney Sports Ground in 1943 and was graded with the Eastern Suburbs Rugby League Football Club (he still calls them the Tricolours, as they were known back then) in the 3rd grade team. He related the chaos that occurred every training night at the Sydney Sports Ground when 3 teams from both Eastern Suburbs and South Sydney Clubs trained together at the same time under restricted lighting due to wartime, about the coldest of showers after training, of having to produce a number of the Nixon Family wartime clothing ration tickets to acquire his East’s jumper number 49 and the team’s trips to the games on an open truck, seating on church pews rain hail or shine. 

In 1943 for his playing feats in 3rd grade he recalled that the Club Secretary John Quinlan paid him 20 Pounds, which was a huge amount of money given that he only earned 2 Pounds a week at the AGM Glassworks. In 1944 he played in reserve grade and was selected in 1st grade (issued with East’s 1st Grade Number 314) with the likes of great role models and players like Wally O’Connor, Dick Dunn, Sid Hobson and Wally Rees, for his first game in August
1944 against Balmain at the Sydney Cricket Ground and he quickly realised how much harder and stronger was the opposition in 1st grade and received a huge payment, in his view, of 25 Pounds for the season.
He fondly remembered on a cold winter’s day in 1943 he went to Coogee Oval to watch a South Sydney Junior Rugby league match and finished up playing on the wing in the A Grade match for the South Sydney Fernleigh’s Rugby League Club against the odds on favourite’s La Perouse All Blacks team, under an assumed name because he had already played in a grade game the day before. Ross managed to score 2 tries in a boil over win by the South Sydney Fernleigh’s team and he thought it was Christmas when he was paid 5 Pounds for his efforts but his joy was short lived because he was recognised by the bookmakers at the game and was subsequently suspended the Judiciary Committee. 

During 1943 he also played, under his own right name, again in the South Sydney Junior League competition for a company team Ducon Condensors in games that were tough, rugged encounters with many punch ups and the rules were liberally enforced. For many years he had his heart set on joining the Royal Australian Navy and at the end of the 1944 season, during which he sustained some serious injuries, his parents granted their permission for him to successfully join the Navy. 

After joining the Navy he played rugby union but in 1946 he played a few games for his old Bronte Surf Club in the Eastern Suburbs Junior League Competition and recalled a match against another local team the Wharfies in which  penalty try awarded to his team combined with a goal in front, resulted in his team winning the match much to the displeasure of the opposition and their thousands of supporters and a near riot erupting. He stated that the game in his day was no near as fast as today’s and we were not in as good condition as current players, plus he never got used to the smell of stale beer and all sorts of plonk on their breaths and it was not just the opposition but his team mates too. 

After leaving the Navy, in 1947 Ross joined the NSW Police Force as a Probation Constable and remained there until retiring in 1988 (41 years service) as an Assistant Commissioner. He broadly recalled his varied experiences in those years including his early working activities with renowned Police Officer Frank “Bumper” Farrell who was a legend in his own life time, his involvement in ballistics evidence at murder trials and in numerous high profile crimes. In 1988 he occupied the position of Deputy Director General,NSW Corrective Services for a 3 year period. 

Sadly his loving wife Betty Margaret of 65 years marriage passed away on the 29 December 2015 and he is still naturally suffering the loss of his true love. Fortunately, Ross is well supported by his three children, including daughter Christine, ex Assistant Commissioner NSW Police and ex Chief Commissioner Victoria Police. 

We presented Ross with a Men of League polo shirt, wished him continued good health, thanked him for allowing us to visit and we looked forward to seeing him at future local Men of League functions in the coming months. In return Ross thanked us for our time, our gifts and wished the Men of League Foundation continued success.
By Ken Vessey

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