Geoff Coleman Tribute
Eulogy to Geoffrey Harry Coleman Hon Life Member SDRC.
From Nev. Shooter (former PHDRC & SDRC President).
Geoffrey Harry Coleman’s passing is an extremely sad day, especially for Di, Catriona, Alison and Scott plus his extended family and also for everyone associated with sport in the Sutherland Shire, for they have lost a great friend and contributor. Geoff was one of those wonderful people that gave back to the organizations he chose to be part of. He was an Honorary Life Member of both the Port Hacking (now Southern Districts) Rugby Club and the Sutherland District Cricket Club. This confirms the esteem Geoff was held in by those two District Premiership Clubs.
I recall the first time I met Geoff, was in March 1968, when fresh out of Knox Grammar he turned up for a trial game for Ports, against Bankstown at a godforsaken ground near Bankstown Golf Club, called the” Field of Ah”. The day was extremely hot and humid and the grass very long something we definitely weren’t used to at Tonkin Oval. I was in the midst of my normal warm up of lying down waving a leg around in the air, when Norm Coleman (Geoff’s dad) came over and said “Hotshot, could you do me a favour?” Sure Norm I said what is it? He quietly advised me that the young skinny kid over there, his son, was going on as fullback and could I look after him. I told Norm it was all under control, of course not letting on that stage of the season I would be having enough trouble, even breathing after about 10 minutes, to let alone look out for someone else. The trial was uneventful for some time then one of the opposition (or it may have been “sprayfoot” Pegrum) kicked a ball which was going to land midway between Geoff and myself. I thought about it, then called “yours” loudly. Geoff loped across the ground, in that slow long striding gallop, that was to cause many a heartache to team mates and club supporters for many years thereafter. Is he ever going to get there or not?. Well Geoff took the ball managed to avoid a couple of defenders, loped up field and offloaded like he had been playing with us for years. When he ran passed me to get back into position he quietly said “thanks for the early call, sir” which to this day I take as a compliment, though I could never be sure it was meant that way. We became friends after that first meeting.
Geoff contributed to the Port Hacking club in many different spheres, each playing a major role in the success and development of the club in its early years. Firstly, as a Rugby Player where from 1968 to1972 inclusive, he played 83 games for Ports, 41 of which were in 1st grade. Geoff played in Reserve Grade in Port’s most successful year, 1969 (when the club won all 4 grades in the then Sydney 2nd Division – still a record to this day). He played most of his 1st XV games in 1970 &1971 (the year Ports were promoted to the Sydney 1st Division Competition). Geoff was a prodigious goal kicker and was the Club’s leading point scorer in 1970 & 1971. The club in those days was very much a family one, with most of the players newly married, buying houses (generally financed by one of the Coleman family’s building societies) and having children. Saturday afternoons, at the grounds we played at, resembled large kinder gardens. Kids going all ways and wives deep in conversation, trying to regain some sanity after a week at home with the tots. The ladies didn’t really watched too much of the Rugby but it didn’t matter because the boys would relive, the games, in entirety, at least three more times over a dinner party or two at each other’s houses. They were joyous memorable days and together our lives were kept grounded with numerous lifelong friendships formed as a result.
The 2nd contribution Goff made to PH was as an effective administrator. He oversaw the club moving from pretty much a surf club based social sports group into the business world and become an organized Rugby Club, able to take the stage with the other Shute Shield Rugby Clubs in Australia’s most prestigious competition. He became the club’s Auditor and Financial Manager and I recall many a Committee Meeting (at one or other of John Harvey’s Real Estate Offices) where Geoff had to lie prone on the floor, to overcome his persistent back pain.
I am sure many here today will recall the numerous and varied efforts made to raise income for our fledgling club. One of the most memorable and satisfying, if not the most financially rewarding, was the wine bottling we undertook at Di and Geoff’s place at Lilli Pilli. Who’d have thought that a De Bortoli’s Cab Sav would today sell in bottle shops for $20 each? Well the way we bottled it and drank “the overs”, we certainly did not think it would.
The 3rd major involvement Geoff had in the club was the funding of the construction of the licensed clubhouse overlooking Forshaw Field in Sylvania Waters. Ian Rixon was the Architect, Steve Whelan, the Structural Engineer, Betty Coleman and I were the rest of the Building Committee, Geoff rounded up the money and John Harvey, our driven visionary President, was the driving force behind the venture. Geoff managed to round up the funds ($165,000 if my memory serves me rightly) raised via a debenture program. A local builder was contracted and the clubhouse erected. The club started trading in 1975 and has become over years the home of Rugby in the south of Sydney. Geoff was the club’s business manager and took on the task of training the Board (which were in the main rugby players) what running a commercial enterprise was all about. They were interesting times and of rapid learning. The club survived but only through the dedication of Geoff and Frank Nolan, Lawyer, one of Geoff’s closest allies. Another monumental asset for Sutherland District Sport that would not have come about without the input of Geoffrey Harry Coleman.
The last phase of contributions made by Geoff and perhaps the most beneficial in terms of the Port Hacking and Southern Districts Rugby Club’s continuing existence was the Tennis Courts development Geoff devised, planned and had constructed at the southern end of the club’s car park area. Its lease has provided continuing income over the full year for an organization that essentially earns money during the winter rugby season. Geoff’s complex has saved the club on numerous occasions from financial distress and I trust will continue to do so for many years to come.
Geoff left a legacy for Rugby in the Sutherland District that’s importance should not be overlooked. He provided so that others could attain the same enjoyment he got out of playing rugby and meeting with mates that he obviously had gotten.
Vale Geoffrey Harry Coleman and thank you for your legacies left. May you rest now in peace, while we reflect on your life well lived.