Bob Abbott remains a towering figure in the 50-year history of the Sharks, having helped to oversee the beginnings of the club and with the vision to make the Sharks one of the power clubs of rugby league in Australia.
His legacy is profound and, with men of like vision, he helped build the foundations in 1967, encouraged by a strong junior league system and by the willingness of an area where rugby league traditions were already sound.
Abbott was Cronulla’s first delegate to the New South Rugby League and continued on as a Sharks vice-president.
He was also one of the figures instrumental in bringing the great Tommy Bishop to the club in 1969.
A significant photo of Bishop signing his contract at the desk of renowned solicitor Jim Comans, 24 hours before the June 30 deadline, shows Abbott leaning over him. And it was Abbott, with club secretary (CEO) Arthur Winn, who flew to England to sign Cliff Watson.
Abbott believed there was more to the game than simply the club premiership. While still attached to the Sharks, he joined the forces of the Australian Rugby League in the 1980s and helped with a number of the game’s innovations, most notably the increase in the tackle rule from four tackles to six.
To prove the worth of six tackles, Abbott suggested a four-club competition, sponsored by the Sharks, in 1970 among the clubs who missed the semi-finals – Cronulla, Newtown, Balmain and Easts. Newtown beat the Sharks 13-11 in the final but the competition proved the worth of the six-tackle rule, one of the most important rule changes in the history of the game.
In looking at the wider view he held for the game:
• He advocated bringing the Pacific Island nations into international rugby league long before others – sadly, without success.
• He both instigated, and helped, with the early promotions of grand final day celebrations in the early 1980s – providing colourful extravaganzas which were later followed, in kind, by the VFL (now AFL).
• In 1975, he was appointed manager of the Australian World Series team, the first Sharks official to be accorded such an honour; *
• In 1983, he was first general manager of the Australian Rugby League Incorporated in 1983 and awarded an Order of Australia Medal (AM) in 1990.
His greatest moment, though, was in watching the Sharks premiership victory – in their 50th year. It justified everything Abbott, and so many others like him, had done in their various roles during those 50 years.
Note: Bob Abbott is currently struggling with ill-health in a Gold Coast hospital. All at the Sharks wish him a speedy recovery.
Lead Photo - Bob Abbott on right