Bob Fulton

Last updated

Bob Fulton
Personal information
Full nameRobert Fulton
Born(1947-12-01)1 December 1947
Stockton Heath, Cheshire, England
Died23 May 2021(2021-05-23) (aged 73) [1]
Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia
Playing information
Position Centre, Five-eighth
1965 Wests (Illawarra)
1966–76 Manly 2191291057510
1969–70 Warrington 16160150
1977–79 Eastern Suburbs 501816288
1969–77 City Firsts 17133046
1967–78 New South Wales 16140042
1968–78 Australia 35250682
Coaching information
198082 Eastern Suburbs 784842662
198388 Manly 1529935065
199399 Manly 15310534569
198998 Australia 39321682
Source: [2] [3]

Robert Fulton AM (1 December 1947 – 23 May 2021 [4] ), also nicknamed "Bozo", [5] was an Australian international rugby league footballer, coach and later commentator. [2] [3] Fulton played, coached, selected for and has commentated on the game with great success at the highest levels and has been named amongst Australia's greatest rugby league players of the 20th century. [6] As a player Fulton won three premierships with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the 1970s, the last as captain. He represented the Australian national side on thirty-five occasions, seven times as captain. He had a long coaching career at the first grade level, taking Manly to premiership victory in 1987 and 1996. He coached the Australian national team in thirty-nine Tests. He was a New South Wales State selector and a national selector. He was a radio commentator with 2GB at the time of his death in 2021, aged 73. In 1981, he was selected as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game and, in 2008, he was named in Australia's team of the century.



Fulton was born in Stockton Heath, a civil parish of Warrington, in the English county of Cheshire. He moved to Australia with his family when he was four years old.

Playing career

At 18 years of age, Fulton made his senior football debut in the Illawarra Rugby League with Western Suburbs in 1965 and went on to represent Country Seconds.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Fulton was signed to Sydney's Manly-Warringah by club secretary Ken Arthurson after being spotted by John Hobbs (Manly talent scout) and started his NSWRFL first grade career in 1966 aged 19.[ citation needed ] As a centre or five-eighth Fulton made an immediate impact. He earned State representative honours in 1967 and was an absolute beast the following year became the youngest ever captain in Grand Final history when he led Manly in the 1968 decider against Souths.

Fulton made 219 appearances for the Manly club between 1966 and 1976. He scored 520 points (129 tries, 10 goals and 56 field goals) – the club's record try tally until Steve Menzies went one better in 2006. Fulton won premierships with Manly in 1972 (also the League's top try-scorer this season), 1973 and 1976. In the 1973 bloodbath against Cronulla he single-handedly took control of the game scoring two tries to take the side to victory.

At the end of the 1976 season Fulton caused a sensation in Sydney rugby league circles when he left Manly and signed a 3-year deal with the Eastern Suburbs club. He left Manly holding the club record for most tries. [7]

Warrington Wolves

Following the 1969 NSWRFL season, Fulton accepted an offer to play a season with his 'home town' club Warrington in the 1969–70 English season. Fulton played 16 games for Warrington, scoring 16 tries and kicking 1 field goal before returning to Australia and Manly for the 100% won that year1970 season.

Eastern Suburbs Roosters

Fulton played 56 matches for the Eastern Suburbs club, mainly at five-eighth. In his first season there Fulton was a member of the side that won the pre-season cup and was the club's leading try scorer. In 1978 he was a member of the Easts side that defeated St George in the mid-week cup final. In 1979, Fulton was appointed captain-coach at the Roosters. [ citation needed ] A chronic knee injury saw him retire after just eight games that year.

Representative career

Fulton made his international début for Australia in the 1968 Rugby League World Cup and played in the World Cup Final at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Playing as a five-eighth, Fulton won his first of three World Cups when Australia defeated France 20–2. [8] He was disappointed in 1967 missing out on the Kangaroo Squad as 2nd string five-eighth to Tony Branson from the Nowra Warriors. Thereafter for the next eleven seasons he was a consistent national representative.

He toured New Zealand in 1971, was on the 1973 and 1978 Kangaroo Tours, played in home Ashes series against Great Britain in 1970 and 1974 and the home series against New Zealand in 1972 and 1978. He participated in Australian squads at four World cups – 1968, 1970 (including Australia's 12–7 World Cup Final win over Great Britain at Headingley), 1972 (including Australia's 10–all draw with Great Britain in the World Cup Final in Lyon, France, though the Lions would win the tournament as they had finished on top of the ladder) and 1975 (won by Australia). He was named as the World Cup Man of the Series in 1970. The same knee injury that would eventually force his retirement as a player in 1979 would keep him from Australia's winning 1977 Rugby League World Cup squad.

He was honoured with the Australian captaincy in the 2nd and 3rd Tests of the 1978 series against New Zealand and in all five Tests of the 1978 Kangaroo Tour, though that included the 2–0 series loss to France at the end of the tour, the last time Australia would lose a series or tournament until the 2005 Rugby League Tri-Nations. Fulton captained his country to a total of 4 wins and 3 losses.

On both of his Kangaroo Tours Fulton was the leading try scorer – with 20 tries from 5 Tests and 9 tour matches in 1973 and 9 tries from 5 Tests and 10 tour matches in 1978.

All told he appeared in 16 representative matches for New South Wales. He represented Australia in 20 Test matches, 15 World Cup matches and 22 minor internationals whilst on tour.

Post playing

Coaching career

After retiring as a player at Easts, Fulton became coach of the Roosters. His was one of the few clubs opposed to the State of Origin concept when it first began and he called it the "non-event of the century". [9] At the end of his first season as coach, he took Easts to the 1980 Grand Final where they were beaten by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. He went on to coach the Roosters for two more seasons.

He returned to Manly as coach in 1983 and in that same year took them to a Grand Final against the Parramatta Eels where the club was unsuccessful for the second year running. In 1987, he guided the Paul Vautin-captained Sea Eagles side to a premiership victory over the Canberra Raiders in the last Grand Final played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, becoming in the process the first person at Manly to win premierships both as captain and as coach. Following the grand final victory, he travelled with Manly to England for the 1987 World Club Challenge against their champions, Wigan, though Manly-Warringah were beaten in a tryless game 8-2.

In 1989, Fulton succeeded Don Furner as coach of the Australian national side. He guided the team in 39 Tests between 1989 and 1998 to 32 victories, one draw and six losses, [10] including the successful 1990 and 1994 Kangaroo tours, as well as winning both the 1992 and 1995 World Cup Finals.

In three consecutive three-Test Ashes series (1990, 1992 and 1994) as well as the 1991 Trans-Tasman Test series, the Australians were taken to a deciding Test and emerged victorious.

In 1993 Fulton returned to Manly as coach and he guided the club to three successive Grand Finals from 1995. Fulton won his second and last premiership as a coach in 1996 when in their 50th season the Manly-Warringah club defeated St George 20–8 in a win at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Super League war

As national coach during the Super League war Fulton played a prime role along with NSW State coach Phil Gould in signing players to stabilise the ARL competition. Fulton was a longstanding and loyal friend of Kerry Packer who wholeheartedly backed the ARL and his own commercial interests and rights to broadcast the traditional game.


From 1999, Fulton was a selector of the New South Wales and Australian sides. [11]


From 1997, Fulton was a member of the Continuous Call Team, first on radio 2UE, and later on 2GB with Ray Hadley, Erin Molan, Darryl Brohman, Mark Levy, David Morrow and Mark Riddell .

National service

Fulton was conscripted into the Army in 1968 and allotted to artillery. He was effectively exempted from active service by being posted to the School of Artillery in Manly NSW as a Physical Training Instructor (PTI), enabling him to pursue his professional football career while technically fulfilling his national service obligation. He also spent time on HMAS Sydney taking the troops through PT during the voyage to South Vietnam.


In 1981, he was selected by the publication Rugby League Week as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game alongside Churchill, Raper and Gasnier. Fulton was also inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985. [12] In 1994 Fulton was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league football" and in 2000 he received the Australian Sports Medal. In 2002 he was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame.

In February 2008, Fulton was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia. [13] [14] Fulton went on to be named as an interchange player in Australian rugby league's Team of the Century . Announced on 17 April 2008, the team is the panel's majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players. [15] [16] Respected rugby league commentator Roy Masters, believes he was left off the starting team due to his versatility, making it difficult to put him in just in one position.

In 2008 New South Wales announced their rugby league team of the century also, naming Fulton as a five-eighth. [17]

He was made a life member of the Sydney Cricket Ground and a plaque in the Walk of Honour there commemorates his career. He was a member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Fulton is one of only two people to have gone on four Kangaroo Tours. Fulton toured as a player in 1973 and 1978 and as team coach in 1990 and 1994. The other is Mal Meninga who made four tours as a player on the unbeaten 1982 and 1986 tours and as the team captain under Fulton's coaching in both 1990 and 1994. He is also the only person to have captained and coached Kangaroos touring teams on separate tours.

Personal life and death

Fulton was married to Anne until his death. The couple had two sons and a daughter – Scott, Brett and Kristie Fulton. Both sons also played first grade for Manly.

Fulton, aged 73, died of cancer on 23 May 2021 at St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst, Sydney. A state funeral was offered by premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian. [18]

He was laid to rest at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on 4 June 2021, with hundreds of Australian sporting and media personalities in attendance.

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  1. "NRL world in mourning after death of rugby league Immortal Bob Fulton aged 73". Wide World of Sport. 23 May 2021. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  2. 1 2 "Statistics at". 31 December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  3. 1 2 "Statistics at". 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  4. "RIP, Bob Fulton: Legendary Immortal dies, aged 73". NRL. 24 May 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  5. Walter, Brad (30 April 2008) "Country pick Bozo, Changa" Brisbane Times
  6. Peter Cassidy (22 February 2008). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  7. "Club records". 18 August 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  8. "1968 Rugby League World Cup Final". 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  9. Gallaway, Jack (2003). Origin: Rugby League's greatest contest 1980–2002. Australia: University of Queensland Press. pp. xi. ISBN   978-0-7022-3383-8.
  10. "Bub Fulton - Australian coaching record". 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  11. Roy Masters (5 July 2006). "Blues' retro logic ideal challenge for Gaz". The Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  12. "Bob Fulton". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. 21 September 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  13. "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL . 23 February 2008. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  14. Peter Cassidy (23 February 2008). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  15. Todd Balym (17 April 2008). "Johns, Meninga among Immortals". Fox Sports Australia. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
  16. "Team of the Century Announced". NRL & ARL . 17 April 2008. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2008.
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  18. NSW Government. 31 May 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021.


Sporting positions
Preceded by
Greg Pierce
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Succeeded by
George Peponis
Preceded by
Graham Lowe
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Succeeded by
Peter Sharp
Preceded by
Don Furner
Flag of Australia (converted).svg

Succeeded by
Wayne Bennett
Preceded by
Ray Ritchie
Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Succeeded by
Alan Thompson
Preceded by
Arthur Beetson
Eastern Suburbs colours.svg
Eastern Suburbs

Succeeded by
Laurie Freier