The day Bob Fulton had me trembling in my shoes

As a child of the 1960s, Bob Fulton was a boyhood hero of mine – along with countless thousands other youngsters of that bygone era.

But my first meeting with the great ‘Bozo’, many years later, had me trembling in my shoes.

It was 1983, Fulton had made the transition from great player to fine coach, and I was a cub reporter for Rugby League Week.

Bozo had just made the move from Eastern Suburbs back to his beloved Manly Sea Eagles, taking four of the Roosters’ biggest names with him.

The incoming Roosters coach Laurie Freier was far from impressed and I wrote a story about him fuming at the raid by Fulton.

A week later, I was in the Manly sheds, talking to a couple of players, when I heard from behind me a familiar sounding voice saying “Oi, you, can I have a word, mate?”

From his many TV appearances, I knew just who it was, without having to turn around… but I thought, ‘Surely Bozo doesn’t want to talk to ME … he must be after someone else’ … so I ignored the command.

But seconds later, he said, ‘Hey, kid, come here’ … and I knew I was in for a dressing down. I turned, took a few tentative steps forward, drew a deep breath and faced the music.

“I didn’t like that story. I did nothing wrong, the players wanted to come with me, end of story,” Bozo said sternly, but without anger.

I was speechless … I got in a couple of ‘but I’s when Bozo broke into that familiar grin and put his arm around me, seeing my knees wobbling.

“It’s all good – but next time, give me a call and get my point of view.”

The following year, I switched to the old Daily Mirror and Bozo and I became ‘teammates’ – he wrote a column for the afternoon paper for many years.

We spoke many times in those heady days and became close – we sometimes disagreed but he would always be courteous and polite … even though he rarely lost an argument.

Just a few months ago, we met up after some 20 years at a northern beaches restaurant and hugged like long-lost buddies.

I knew he had been battling cancer for some time but when I asked how he was he shrugged off the problem, smiling and declaring, “I’ll be right mate”.

I’ve known few people who loved life more than Bozo Fulton.

Like Tom Raudonikis before him, he was larger than life … indestructible … and I was stunned to hear of his passing.

Rugby league has lost a giant – and it’s a sad moment for many thousands of footy lovers around the country.

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