THE GROUP 20 community is in mourning after the loss of one of Riverina rugby league’s true greats, West Wyalong icon Ron Crowe.
The five-time Australian Test representative passed away on Tuesday after a short battle with illness. He was 80 years old.
Nicknamed “Dookie”, the fearsome front-rower was a three-time premiership winning captain-coach with the Mallee Men and also represented both NSW and NSW Country on numerous occasions in a career that spanned nearly half his life.
West Wyalong president Mark Cafe said it was difficult to put into words how much of an impact Crowe had on rugby league not only in the town, but elsewhere in the region.
“It was a sort of ripple effect from West Wyalong to the far reaches of Group Nine, Group 20, country NSW and the rest of Australia,” he said.
“He was an absolute legend – inspirational for a lot of our footballers, who looked at him as the benchmark to aspire to.
“His status and recognition was just enormous throughout the game in the country.”
There is little chance it will be forgotten anytime soon – West Wyalong’s home ground, Ron Crowe Oval, was named after him in 1965. After a $1.5 million upgrade last year, it is considered one of the best venues in the area.
Crowe is also a Mallee Men life member and the club’s best and fairest award is named after him.
“Dookie means a lot to our current crop of footballers,” Cafe said.
“He coached me in the juniors and I had a lot of personal contact with him, not just as president but as a bloke.
“Ronnie gave me my first football jumper – it was a Souths jumper.”
Crowe actually spent a season with South Sydney in 1962, but commuted from West Wyalong on weekends so he could continue his job as a woodcutter.
Aside from that year, Crowe spent the rest of his career playing in the bush.
His first representative game was for Riverina in 1965, but he went on to notch every other rep honour available to him.
Crowe’s funeral will be held tomorrow at the ground bearing his name, starting at midday.