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Thread: Vale Greg Growden, you will be long remembered

  1. #1
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    Vale Greg Growden, you will be long remembered

    Peter FitzSimons
    November 15, 2020 — 10.37am

    Greg Growden, the iconic rugby journalist, whose work appeared in these pages across an extraordinary six decades, from the late 1970s when he joined the paper as a cadet, through to this decade – with a long stint at ESPN thrown in – passed away last night at Royal Prince Alfred’s Lifehouse facility after a long struggle with cancer.

    He was just 60 years old.

    Renowned sports journalist Greg Growden has died aged 60 after a long battle with illness.

    Growden worked as a sports journalist across many fields, but it was for rugby that he will be most remembered, one of only two journalists in the world to have covered every Rugby World Cup from 1987. Others came and went. Greg was always there – in the dressing room, by the field, on road trips, scouting out stories.

    He once recounted the unlikely story of how a talented young AFL player from the Riverina who'd never played rugby became such a force in the fifteen man code, globally.

    In the early '80s, the famed political journalist Peter Bowers had a brief stint away from the Canberra press gallery to become the Herald's frenetic news editor. On the June long weekend, cadet journalist Growden was allocated the usual cadet journalist's task of compiling what was open and what was not on the Queen's Birthday holiday.

    “In the middle of trying to find out whether trains were running to weekend timetables, [I] heard Bowers's always emotive voice bellowing across the old Broadway news room," Growden wrote.

    "'Well OK then, OK … OK Growden's the new rugby league writer. You got that?’ Bowers shouted at the sports editor. 'Well where is he? Growden get over here, and start ringing those football clubs.'

    "Within seconds my preoccupation in life changed from murder to medial ligaments, hackwork to hamstrings, personal tragedy to physical triumph. For allowing me to join the cartoon section, I will be forever grateful to Peter Bowers.”

    Of course, rugby league was just a stepping stone, as he quickly switched to rugby and never looked back. From that unlikely start, he went on to be respected around the rugby world for his scoops, his tireless work ethic, his fearlessness – and one other thing in particular. Though he was an established journo himself, he was unfailingly good to junior journalists coming through. In my own case, when I asked him in 1986 if I could maybe write a single rugby column for the Herald, he not only said of course, but took it to the Sports Editor, Tom Hammond, and insisted he print it.

    It gave me my start, he showed me the ropes thereafter and I have never forgotten it. And there were many like me.

    He was equally respected by those in the rugby world.

    "I first met Greg in late 1995 when I joined the ARU," says former Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill.

    "I quickly realised that as a rugby journalist, he was a force to be reckoned with; he didn’t suffer fools, detested dishonesty and was unambiguously courageous. He didn’t see his job to be popular! As a friend, he was loyal and consistent. On tour he could be the life of the party. Dinner at the Green Parrot in Wellington NZ, with other rugby commentators will forever be in my memory."

    Former Wallabies captain John Eales said: "I enjoyed many long chats and a few drinks with Greg over many years of touring. We spoke a lot about the history of both rugby and cricket, probably more cricket, and I particularly enjoyed his book on Chuck Fleetwood-Smith - A Wayward Genius."

    Greg counted many of the Wallabies from the 1980s as good friends. He'd talk weekly with Campo and have lunch with Mark Ella once a month.

    "It was because of his love for rugby touring and his mateship with the players someone like Greg was the reason we always welcomed the travelling journalists onto our team bus and into our hotel," former Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones said. "He will be missed."

    As an author he was highly accomplished, with a very specific niche.

    Not for him, the well travelled and obvious subjects. Greg went out after bringing to life those who history had passed by and forgotten, but who deserved to have their stories told. Many were from the worlds of rugby and cricket, the latter being a sport Greg learned about as a young journo sitting next to the great Bill 'Tiger' O'Reilly in the SCG press box.

    He wrote acclaimed biographies of Chuck Fleetwood-Smith and Jack Fingleton, Tom Richards and even Snowy Baker. There were absorbing collections of the stories of Wallabies who'd served their country in war, and another about the Aussie cricketers.

    His fifteenth and most recent book, Major Thomas, was a look at the lawyer who defended Breaker Morant in 1901 at the end of the Boer War. Though no more than a footnote to popular history, Growden scoured the records, uncovered extraordinary detail and made the story breathe again.

    Greg's hidden talent was to be an accomplished lawn bowler, and he took great pleasure in skipping the Lane Cove team in fours pennant matches all over the state.

    He faced his final illness with great stoicism and resolution. He knew he was in real trouble. The cancer came and went a couple of times. When it came back with a vengeance, he made his arrangements.

    Many of us woke to the news on Friday that he was in real trouble and in palliative care. The texts flew. For most of Friday he was still strong enough to reply to our messages with much the same love dozens of us journalists and rugby people sent to him. By Friday evening his texts stopped.

    By Saturday night, he was gone.

    The Herald sends its deepest condolences to his family: his wife Elizabeth, and his children Anna and Angus. Greg made his mark, and will be long remembered.

    Vale Greg Growden. Great family man, rugby writer, respected author. Cherished friend.

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  2. #2
    Senior Player Contributor WF2006's Avatar
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    Very sorry to hear
    Very sad, on this forum, he was never our favourite, but 60 years old is way too young.

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  3. #3
    Veteran Ecky's Avatar
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    I have some of his books. I like them a great deal. I like the way he wrote. He might have had some differently-aligned views, but I liked his stuff.

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