Tim Pickup

Last updated

Tim Pickup
Personal information
Born(1948-10-06)6 October 1948
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died7 June 2021(2021-06-07) (aged 72)
Playing information
Height170 cm (5 ft 7 in)
Weight71 kg (11 st 3 lb)
Rugby union
1966–68Manly RUFC
Rugby league
Position Five-eighth, Halfback, Fullback
1970–71 St Helens 00000
1970(loan)–71Blackpool Borough
1972–74 North Sydney Bears 52102034
1975–79 Canterbury-Bankstown 473009
1972–75 New South Wales 60000
1972–75 Australia 111003
1973–75 City NSW 30000
Source: [1]

Timothy Alexander Pickup (6 October 1948 – 7 June 2021) [2] was an Australian Rugby League footballer for the North Sydney Bears, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, New South Wales and Australian national side in the 1970s, playing his First Test for Australia in 1972, only 14 games after his NSWRL First Grade debut. A player with blistering acceleration that could step off both feet, he had good hands, a smart kicking game, was a cunning tactician complimented by the unusual combination of being an exceptional defender for a small man. Pickup also played First Grade Rugby Union for the Manly Rugby Club as a teenage prodigy for three seasons from 1966-68. In retirement Pickup was involved in boxing at famed Newtown PCYC and was Jeff Harding's manager when he won the WBC World Light-Heavyweight title in 1989. He was the foundation CEO of the Adelaide Rams franchise of the Australian Super League in 1995. In 2000 he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for services to Australian sport. Pickup was named in the North Sydney Bears Team of the Century in 2006 and was a finalist for both the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 70th Anniversary team as well as Manly Rugby Union's Team of the Century.


Early years

Tim Pickup was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia as the second of three sons to Harrie and Mary Pickup, between brothers Paul and Chris. His father Harrie was a lower-grade player for St. George and Eastern Suburbs, and his brother, Tim's uncle, Laurie was an outstanding First Grade Rugby League player with the Eastern Suburbs Roosters (player #258).

Laurie Pickup is on record as the third youngest ever captain of the Tri-colors whose career was cut short when killed on duty at age 26 during World War II.

Enfield Federals

Tim Pickup was a Western Suburbs Rugby League junior who played his formative years with the Enfield Federals J.R.L.F.C. from 1959 to 1965. Dormant since the 1930s, the Federals were revived by a local consortium including Tim's father Harrie Pickup and friends in 1959. Harrie was club President from 1959 to 1965.

The Federals became a juggernaut and Pickup's teammates included six future Sydney first-graders, including Michael McClean – Manly, North Sydney and Wests (son of former Western Suburbs captain Peter McClean), Neville Hornery – Canterbury and Wests, Geoff Nielsen – Canterbury and Easts, John Clark – Wests and Parramatta, as well as Rod Smith and Australian horse-racing identity, Frank Tagg – both Wests. Legendary Balmain, NSW and Australian Rugby League trainer/conditioner, and noted hard man Les Hobbs was also a key member of this team.

The Enfield Federals were such a dominant side they went undefeated for seven years, and ironically lost their one and only game, the 1965 Grand Final which was Pickup's last ever match for the club. During the Federals reign they quickly ran out of opponents, having to play up an age group to get a game and eventually had to shift to other Junior Leagues (Balmain, Newtown) to be accommodated. The Federals were such a force that twelve out of the starting thirteen line-up represented Western Suburbs RLFC in the 1963 (u15) S.G Ball/Oatley Shield and 1965 (u17) Jersey Flegg Shield and won both competitions undefeated, with Tim Pickup as five-eighth and captain.

In 1965, Western Suburbs RLFC called upon Pickup and teammate Neville Hornery to play in the 3rd grade open-age semi-finals. Harrie Pickup deemed his son to be too young for this promotion at only 16 years of age, yet Neville not only accepted the challenge, he excelled and so began his chequered career. Hornery never realised his immense potential and after five short seasons he misbehaved his way out of a couple of clubs, leaving all who saw him play to wonder what might have been.

Pickup did his schooling at St. Patrick's Strathfield, and graduated from Christian Brothers Lewisham in 1965. He was offered a high school scholarship to storied Rugby Union nursery, St. Joseph's Hunter's Hill but declined for at that time was not a fan of Rugby Union.

At the end of 1965 Harrie Pickup decided to move his family to the Northern Beaches, as all three brothers had discovered surfing and were regulars on the Peninsula. The Pickups settled in Curl Curl.

In 2019 The Enfield Federals named their Team of the Century with Tim Pickup as the Halfback and Captain;

1.Tony Ford 2.Graham McKay 3.Wayne Smith 4.Ken Hey 5.Hazem El Masri 6.Denis Pittard 7.Tim Pickup(c) 8.Rod Smith 9.Neville Hornery 10.Jim Serdaris 11.Sid Walsh 12.Robbie Farah 13.John Armstrong Reserves: 14.Solomon Haumono 15.Jason Williams 16.Scott Gale 17.Neville Sinclair

Manly Rugby Union

Pickup's Rugby League career stalled when his family relocated as the Western Suburbs RLFC did not grant a transfer/release for Tim to further his career with any club other than Wests, and especially not to Manly-Warringah.

With few options left to continue his Rugby League career Pickup tagged along with a work mate to the Manly Rugby Union Club and never having played the sport, quickly rose through the grades in the pre-season and was named starting First Grade stand-off as a 17-year-old in the first game of the 1966 season, against reigning Premiers Randwick. Pickup played three straight years at five-eighth/stand-off uninterrupted, never missing the First Grade starting line-up through form or injury, never playing a single lower grade match. Manly was competitive during the entirety of Pickup's tenure, his last ever game for the club being the 1968 Grand Final which they lost to Sydney University, 23–6. A Manly teammate of Pickup's was future dual-international Steve Knight, who was also a teenager at the time.

Frustrated with a lack of progress on the representative scene, Pickup felt he was a victim of his Rugby League heritage and stubbornly severed his ties and set off to England on a working holiday, and did not return to Australia until 1972. Pickup was one of five finalists nominated for the position of five-eighth in Manly Marlins team of the century in 2008. [3]


With his passport full of stamps after exploring Europe and the Middle East, Pickup and friends eventually found their way to England, where he was spotted playing touch football in a London park, and was recommended for a trial with legendary club, St. Helens RLFC. He bolted up north for the opportunity and was signed after a couple of lower grade games. With a glut of talent already on their books, Tim was 'loaned' out to First Division battlers, Blackpool Borough where he played fullback and was teammates with the legendary Billy Boston, in the twilight of his career, and Allan Bishop, the tenacious younger brother of the great Tommy Bishop. In 1969 Tim was deported to his last port of call, the US, for overstaying his visa.

During this period Tim was stuck in New York living at a homeless hostel and would hitch a ride to the Woodstock music festival with fellow residents. A lifelong boxing fanatic, Pickup also tracked down his boyhood hero Sugar Ray Robinson and would follow him and his entourage on their daily run through Central Park. He was accosted by Robinson's minders when they were alerted to his pattern of following their group. Tim talked his way out of a beating when he identified himself as a true fan and made Sugar Ray laugh. He then trained as part of the group until his visa was cleared and was able to return to England.

In 1971 Tim married his Australian wife and AMP colleague, Jan, with Allan Bishop as his Best Man. Jan flew over to join Tim once his visa status was sorted and he was readmitted to the UK. Pickup would be named Blackpool's player of the year for the consecutive 1970 and 1971 seasons, but again got itchy feet when unable to get a recall to St. Helens' first team. His stellar play for Blackpool Borough didn't go unnoticed and he began to generate massive interest in his native Australia and decided to return.

North Sydney Bears

When Tim Pickup returned to Sydney he resumed his career in finance with AMP, and with multiple clubs vying for his services, he resumed his career in Rugby League with the North Sydney (#691). Pickup explained that Norths were the team that had suffered the longest drought between premierships, and he wanted to make a difference. His impact was felt immediately. Partnered with Keith 'Chicka' Outten in the halves, the tough but tiny pair made for a dynamic defensive duo, with Outten playing the organisational role in attack, where Pickup assumed the role of running back. With club stalwart Ross Warner, Keith Harris and the dynamic Bruce Walker in the forwards, and the rock hard playing surface itself, North Sydney Oval quickly became a formidable and dreaded place to visit. Although Norths fortunes improved during Tim's short time as a Bear, they never made the final five playoff series and hovered around the middle of the ladder, when coached by the great Noel Kelly from 1972 to 1974. Their best finish was 6th, worst was 9th in the 12 team NSWRL competition.

Personally Tim achieved instant success at representative level in 1972 and played for Australia after only 14 games for the Bears. Pickup was chosen for City Seconds then played two games for New South Wales (NSW #664), he made the Australian team (#462) alongside Norths teammate George Ambrum. When first chosen for the Australian team, Pickup gave his first jersey to his Bears halves partner Keith Outten in recognition of his contribution to achieving the sports highest honour and his childhood dream. Tim played two Tests against New Zealand in 1972 partnering Tommy Raudonikis in the halves, and 'Ímmortal' Bob Fulton in the centres, a combination which was regularly used by selectors over the next four seasons. Tim Pickup was the only North Sydney Bears player chosen in the 26 man squad when he toured Europe with the 1973 Kangaroos, captain-coached by 'Immortal' Graeme Langlands. Pickup played in four Tests, including the 21-12 First Test loss to Great Britain at Wembley and 12 tour matches. He generally played at five-eighth, though he was selected at halfback in the 2nd Test against France. The 13th Kangaroo Tour was a huge success as the Australians retained the Ashes with a 2–1 series win over Great Britain, a 2–0 series win vs France, where 'Ímmortal' Arthur Beetson became the first Indigenous Australian to captain an Australian team in any sport. The mighty Kangaroo's had an overall tally of 17 wins from 19 games. Their only other loss was against St. Helens. Tim's last Test Match for Australia as a North Sydney Bear was against the touring Great Britain side in 1974 series. He was named the Bears player of the year for the 1973 and 1974 seasons.

Frustrated at North Sydney's policy towards player retention and its lack of ambition in recruiting star-quality players, Pickup decided it was time to move on and signed a massive (for the day) five-year contract to captain Canterbury-Bankstown, (#406) who were known as the Berries at that time.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Tim Pickup took two teammates with him from the Bears and together their impact at Belmore was immediate. Promising young centre/second-rower Keith Harris developed though never realised his enormous potential, and Dave Cooper's contribution should never be underestimated by Canterbury fans.

Cooper at that stage had just retired and the former Norths, Balmain and Cronulla forward turned his passion for fitness into the role of trainer/conditioner. His tough training regime set the tone for Canterbury's team, giving them a physical and mental edge and a template that has been replicated by future Bulldogs squads right up until the present day. Dave Cooper's massive influence on the club was recognised when he was awarded life membership in 2010.

Pickup's tenure with the Belmore club [4] started with a bang in 1975. As captain he led the team to a barnstorming start to the season, and after the club's loss in the 1974 NSWRFL season's grand final to Eastern Suburbs the Belmore faithful were feeling that they had found the missing piece to the elusive premiership puzzle. Tim was first choice five-eighth for all representative games for City, State and for Australia, but that momentum came crashing to a halt when he severely injured his knee in a World Cup match against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground in June of that season. Canterbury were in 2nd place at that time and eventually were knocked out in the major semi-final and Pickup did not play again that season and would also missed the entire 1976 season recovering from complications of the same injury. [5]

After nearly two full seasons out due to his 1975 knee injury Pickup returned to the field in 1977. For the first time in his career, in Australian Rugby League or Rugby Union, where he emerged as a teen sensation in 1966 at 17, Tim had to play his way back into the First Grade squad via Reserve Grade. He proved his fitness after a few games and was back in the top squad but his speed and quickness was zapped, and he was forced to adapt to a different style of play to the one that built his reputation. Paired in the halves with the brilliant Steve Mortimer for the first time, Pickup assumed the organisational role to Mortimer's wildly unorthodox running back. Tim would share captain duties with Bob McCarthy and George Peponis for the rest of the season and the team would finish out of final five contention in 7th place.

In 1978 McCarthy would return to South Sydney, and Peponis and Pickup would share captaincy of the newly monikered Bulldogs. Canterbury had a dangerous combination in Mortimer and Pickup had a very good season, making the finals in fifth place. Personally Pickup was named KB Player of the week across the entire competition in May, and learned to play effectively within his enforced physical limitations. Canterbury were bitterly disappointed to go out in the first week of the finals to Parramatta 22-15. The Eels would lose to eventual premiership winners Manly 17-11 in a mid week replay, just three days after playing a 13-13 draw, exactly a week after their victory over the Bulldogs. This was Pickup's last full season of First Grade that ended with the horrible feeling of what might have been?

Pickup was talked out of retirement by Canterbury patriarch Peter Moore, he played on in Reserve Grade as insurance for any potential first team injuries. Tim would play one further First Grade game in the 1979 season, he was devastated at the demotion but would excel in his mentoring role of the next generation of pups who graduated to be Bulldog superstars over the next decade. Players such as Chris Anderson, Steve Folkes, George Peponis, Greg Brentnall and the Mortimer brothers, Steve, Peter and Chris, all served their apprenticeships alongside Pickup during their formative years. Steve Mortimer states as much in his biography "Top Dog", devoting a chapter to the issue, with the title 'Toughened by Tim (Pickup) Tom (Raudonikis) and Terry (Lamb).'

Tim Pickup finished his career at Belmore as captain of the 2nd Grade side in a Grand Final loss to Parramatta. He was named Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Clubman of the Year in 1979.

Post Rugby League career

Tim Pickup worked for AMP from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s as a financial planner. He also owned a successful chain of donut shops in three Sydney locations, Chatswood, Birkenhead Point and Hurstville. He also managed boxer Jeff 'Hitman' Harding when he won the WBC Light-Heavyweight world title in 1989. Tim was a voracious traveler, spending several months at a time in South America (mid 80's), Africa, Asia and Europe (late 90's), Middle East(immediately post 9/11) and Cuba (mid 2000's) and Africa again (late 2000's).

Tim was a fitness devotee who was fascinated by mental toughness in the athletic arena. He was obsessed with Olympic competition or any elite sports and their athletes such as Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe in tennis, Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna in Formula One, Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard in Boxing, Jack Nicklaus in golf. He especially appreciated rivalry of middle-distance runners such as Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovetts and Steve Cram.

Tim along with former teammate Dave Cooper were avid competitors in the Sydney Sunday Fun Run Circuit every winter, including the 16 km Great Nosh Run, 14 km Harbour Bridge to Breakers(Manly), 12 km Narrabeen to Manly, 11 km Sutherland to Surf, and the Bay Run, the 7 km Iron Cove Bridge Circuit to taper off culminating with the 14 km City to Surf in the second week of August. Pickup and Cooper began running during their football careers to enhance their fitness, when their teams schedules allowed and ran the trails of Lane Cove National Park during summer. Tim ran 15 City to Surfs, his best time was a sub 49 minute run in the early 1980s.

As Tim's troubled knee deteriorated he continued to run relentlessly timed 600m laps of Manly First Grade Cricket Clubs' training ground, Graham Reserve. He continued this ritual daily into his mid 60's. For many years Pickup would combine his Manly laps with further self inflicted punishment on his rowing machine, introduced to him by former Bulldogs Conditioner, Cooper. They would be forever competing over times given via the phone. For a period there they both discovered bicycle road races. At this time Pickup would join forces with former teammate Steve Folkes, and Folkes' former Bulldogs teammate Billy Johnstone to collectively do a leg each of a few triathlons. Folkes would swim, Pickup would bike and Johnstone would run.

Tim Pickup's training partners would play a large part in the Bulldogs most successful period in team history. Dave Cooper was Canterbury's trainer from 1975 to 1992, during the tenure of First Grade Coaches Malcolm Clift 1975–1977, and Ted Glossop 1978–1983, Warren Ryan 1984–1987, Phil Gould 1988–1989, and Pickup's former Bulldogs, NSW and Australian teammate, Chris Anderson 1990–1992. This was the Bulldogs Golden Age! Upon retirement as a player, Steve Folkes took over as Conditioner from Cooper from 1992 to 1995 with Chris Anderson still as First Grade Coach and Billy Johnstone would rejoin the club as Conditioner in 1994. Folkes would move into Coaching the Reserve Grade side from 1995 to 1997, ultimately succeeding Anderson as the Bulldogs First Grade Coach in 1998, when he left to coach the Melbourne Storm during their maiden season in 1998. Anderson would win Melbourne's maiden premiership in 1999. Folkes would coach 11 First Grade seasons at the Bulldogs, he was fired during the 2008 campaign having won the clubs most recent title in 2004. Billy Johnstone would succeed Folkes as Head Trainer and Conditioner in 1995 when Folkes moved into coaching and would maintain that position until 2001. Johnstone then moved to the North Queensland Cowboys as Conditioner from 2002 to 2006, then the Gold Coast Titans from 2007 to 2008, before returning to the Cowboys for the 2009–2011 seasons.

Upon Tim Pickup's retirement as a player from the Bulldogs at the end of the 1979 season, Peter "Bullfrog" Moore convinced Pickup to move into team administration and he made a seamless transition to Director of the Football Club. Tim served in this capacity until the end of the 1995 season, and again from 2002 to 2004. Scouting was also one of his duties, his most notable discovery being Australian representative David Gillespie. Tim was awarded Life Membership at Canterbury-Bankstown in 1985 for his 10 years of continuous service with the team, from player to Front Office.

After a 1995 detour to Super League as CEO of the now defunct Adelaide Rams, Pickup, fueled by a Rupert Murdoch 'golden handshake,' never worked another day and went on safari. Tim spent entire year of 1997 marauding the African Continent, he even made a habit of watching his favourite middle-distance runner, mens 10 000 metre Olympic Champion Haile Gebrselassie prepare and train in his native Ethiopia. Tim's adventure came to an end after being rescued by the French Foreign Legion in a parade of Tanks, after being holed up in a Brazzaville Church for three days during a Congo uprising. Returning to Sydney he decided to learn Russian at Tafe before spending the second half of 1998 in Russia and Mongolia.

Upon his return in 1999, Tim resumed his relationship with the Bulldogs as a member of their Ambassadors Club, a role that he maintained well into the mid-2010s, until his health declined and he moved into a retirement home. During this period he would rejoin their Board in an official capacity after their 2002 Salary Cap Scandal and would stand down after the club won their last title in 2004. Pickup's connection to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs lasted nearly 50 years until his death in 2021, the comradery with teammates and coaches gave him immense satisfaction and lifelong friendships.

Super League

When Peter Moore decided to stand down from his post as Chief Executive of Canterbury in the mid-1990s, he offered the CEO position to Tim Pickup, who in turn declined for personal reasons. With the advent of Super League the following year in 1995, Moore campaigned heavily for Pickup to become Foundation CEO of the ill-fated Adelaide Rams Franchise, a position he accepted and held for under a year. Pickup was present for the entire Super League court proceedings as chief of the Rams. He moved on from that position into retirement after the ARL injunction prevented Super League from kicking off in the 1996 season. After traveling to Africa for a year in 1997, Tim spent 1998 in Russia and Mongolia before returning to Australia and the Bulldogs in 1999, in an official capacity as a Director in 2002.

Salary cap scandal

In the wake of Canterbury's 2002 Salary Cap scandal, Tim Pickup was recruited by then CEO Steve Mortimer to a place on his hand-picked Board. He was one of a host of former Bulldogs players such as Clive Gartner, George Peponis and Terry Lamb among others, assembled to restore pride in the jersey after the former regime nearly crippled the club. Unprecedented NRL penalties included a record fine ($500K) and deduction of competition points (37) that sent the team from first to last and claim the wooden spoon, on the back of 17 straight victories. Pickup stayed on until the club got back on its feet, even through the Coffs Harbour scandal that followed two years later.

Unhappy with the unfair dismissal of former teammate Garry Hughes in that incident's aftermath, Pickup strongly disagreed with the scapegoat sacking of Hughes and left quietly, along with Gartner after the Bulldogs won the 2004 NRL Premiership the same season.


Tim Pickup was heavily involved with Johnny Lewis and the Newtown Police Boys PCYC during Australian boxing's golden age, from the early 80's. He used to take a gruelling forty-minute circuit class twice a week that was patronised by future boxing World Champions Jeff Fenech, Jeff Harding and Joe Bugner, as well as First Grade Rugby League players Steve Mortimer, Billy Johnstone, Pat Jarvis and Geordie Peats among others.

Pickup became Jeff 'Hitman' Harding's manager after the boxer was selected in the Australian team for the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. All members needed to raise $5,000 to get on the plane, so Pickup appealed to Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs boss Peter Moore, who signed off on the request. Grateful for the assistance, Harding walked into the ring for the gold medal bout wearing a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs jersey, minus the required Australian tracksuit. Harding lost the bout and had to settle for a silver medal, and was told in no uncertain terms by officials that he had better turn professional as he had just fought his last fight as amateur, as far as they were concerned. They felt Harding had disrespected the Australian team by wearing the Bulldogs jersey.

With Johnny Lewis as his trainer, Harding approached Pickup to be his manager as a professional fighter following the assistance that he provided in getting the boxer to Edinburgh. Tim originally declined but was eventually talked into it by his good friend Lewis. Harding scaled the ranks quickly, for his style was much more suited to the professional ranks as opposed to the amateur criteria. Harding quickly went into world title calculations after leaving behind him a trail of battered foes. He was undefeated when he was called upon as a last minute replacement to fight WBC Light-Heavyweight champion Dennis Andries in Atlantic City, USA in 1989.

After initially declining the WBC invitation due to inexperience, Lewis and Pickup reconsidered fearing they may never get another opportunity for their young pugilist. What ensued was that of a fairy tale, Harding came from behind on points to win in the most dramatic of fashions, knocking Andries down three times in the 12th and final round before the referee stopped the contest, showing mercy to the former champion.

Harding v Andries 1 was named the World Boxing Council's Fight of the Year, 1989. Jeff Harding was given the award by Mike Tyson at the 1990 WBC convention.

The Ring magazine "The Bible of Boxing" listed the fight as no.58 in their 100 Greatest Title Fights of All-Time.

Tim Pickup ranks Harding's win as his absolute sporting highlight, eclipsing his own personal achievements. He managed Harding for the best part of a decade, that saw the 'Hitman' fight for the world title on eight occasions. (Harding won it twice, defended it four times and lost it twice. He fought Andries in three title fights for two wins and a loss.)


Pickup was awarded the Australian Sporting Medal in 2000 for services to Australian sport. In August 2006 Pickup was named at five-eighth in the North Sydney Bears' Team of the Century . Pickup was originally named in the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 70th Anniversary Team in 2004, (named one of the club's 20 greatest players, on the bench-not the starting line-up) but was omitted due to a technicality, when it was revealed he had only played 47 1st grade games and was three games short of the 50 game minimum. Pickup was nominated as one of the final four five-eighths/stand-offs for Manly Rugby Union's Team of the Century in 2005. Tim was named Halfback and Captain of the Enfield Federals team of the Century in 2019.

Pickup was also named halfback on Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson's 'All-time Mustachioed Rugby League Team' on their nationally syndicated program 'This Sporting Life' on radio station Triple J in 1998.


Pickup died on 7 June 2021 after a long battle with dementia. [6]

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tim Lafai</span> Samoa international rugby league footballer

Timoteo Lafai is a Samoan professional rugby league footballer who plays as a centre for the Salford Red Devils in the Super League and Samoa at international level..

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kyle Flanagan (rugby league)</span> Australian professional rugby league footballer

Kyle Flanagan is an Australian professional rugby league footballer who plays as a halfback for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in the NRL.


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