Sharks lose a ‘founding father’

The Sharks mourn the passing of Bob Abbot, a towering figure in the Club's history and a man who many years ago had the vision to make the Cronulla Sharks into the club it is today.

Mr Abbott, who passed away in Kareena Hospital overnight aged 90, left a profound legacy in helping to build the foundations of the Sharks during the club's inception into the premier rugby league competition back in 1967.

Cronulla's first delegate to the New South Wales Rugby League, Abbott continued as a Sharks vice-president and was one of the figures instrumental in bringing the Sharks Immortal Tommy Bishop to the club in 1969, while also flying to the UK to sign the great Cliff Watson.

Club Chairman Dino Mezzatesta expressed the sentiments of all involved at the Sharks in thanking Mr Abbott for his outstanding contribution over many years.

"I want to express our deepest gratitude to Bob on behalf of our current Board but also from all past Chairman and Directors, for his vision, his passion and the legacy that he left behind, one which is not only about the Sharks but also recognises his contribution to the game of rugby league," Mr Mezzatesta said

"Bob was responsible for many wonderful initiatives in making the game better and at the same time the Sutherland Shire a better rugby league community.

"We are saddened by his passing and offer his family our deepest sympathies."

Sharks CEO Barry Russell added;

"Bob was a great man who made an outstanding contribution to the the Sharks. All members, fans and players past and present should be very thankful for his efforts over many years," Russell said

"We will be making application to the NRL to wear arm bands on Saturday night in honouring Bob and recognising his legacy at the Sharks." 

While still attached to the Sharks, Abbott joined forces with the Australian Rugby League in the 1980's helping with a number of the game's innovations, most notably the increase in the tackle rule from four to six.

To prove the worth of six tackles, Abbott instigated a four-club competition in 1970, sponsored by the Sharks and contested by 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.

Abbott also advocated bringing the Pacific Island nations into international rugby league long before others, sadly without success at the time, he drove the early promotions of grand final day celebrations in the early 1980s, while in 1975 was appointed manager of the Australian World Series team, the first Sharks official to be accorded such an honour.

In 1983, he was the first general manager of the Australian Rugby League Incorporated and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (AM) in 1990.

His greatest rugby league moment however, may have been watching the Sharks first premiership victory in 2016, achieved in their 50th year, justifying the work done by him and so many others during those five decades.

Mr Abbott was also in constant contact with Shane Flanagan in recent years, offering the Sharks Head Coach his astute observations on the game.

Bob Abbott's funeral will be held at St Aloysius Church at Cronulla on Thursday (3/5/18) at 1.00pm.