In the context of the history of the Sydney University Rugby League Club Dave Chadwick deserves to be held in the same high esteem as the club’s founder, the Hon. Dr H V Evatt QC, for the role he played in re-establishing the club.
Dave sustained the club through long periods of success. This was despite the many challenges faced by SURL and its players and the fact that, as amateurs, the club competed against professional and semi-professional athletes.
The club turned out to be his life and it owed its life, in its various forms, to him.
David Chadwick was born in 1942, an only child, educated at Rose Bay Public School and Sydney Boys High School. He grew up with and played cricket and junior rugby league with Geoff ‘the Bull’ McMah and John Fuller, who later made significant contributions to the Sydney University Rugby League Club and played many years of grade cricket in Sydney at all levels.
David obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree at Sydney University and later completed a Master of Arts degree with First Class Honours. Although he attended a ‘rugby union’ high school he was always a devotee of rugby league.
When he came to Sydney University there was no rugby league club. Rugby league had been played by Sydney University in the NSWRL 1st Division from 1920 until approximately 1937, with the club making a grand final appearance against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 1926, playing in front of 20,000 at the Royal Agricultural Society Grounds (the old Showground at Moore Park). Sydney University lost that match 5-11.
The club produced a number of players who played for the State, including Clive Evatt, later to become a Queens Counsel, brother of Dr H V Evatt QC, who founded the Rugby League Club in 1920 having been the secretary of the Sports Union in 1914. He found the rugby union domination of sport at the Sports Union repugnant.
The club produced one Kangaroo, who died on the sea trip to Great Britain for the tour. Other former players who went to other clubs played for Australia at a later time.
In 1962 Dave was the primary force in establishing the rugby league club. Dave played with the club from 1962 until he retired from active playing in the early 1970s, when he travelled to Great Britain with Ron Spackman.
He was President of the Rugby League Club from its inception until he travelled to Great Britain, at which time John Langton became President.
Dave was instrumental in developing a club that, by 1971, had five teams, including two teams in the Sydney 2nd Division from 1965.
Along with other members of the Club’s executive, including John Pollard and Paul Webb, he was also instrumental in setting up the University Cup competition in 1970.
By 1971 the SUARLC had six teams due largely to David’s passion for the Club and the game of rugby league. In the 1960s and ’70s he regularly attended the final in the premier high school rugby league competition, the University Shield, to present it to the winning captain. The Shield was a gift to the Combined High Schools from SUARLC in the 1920 and ’30s.
During the late 1960s and early ’70s he captained Sydney University to two grand finals (1969 and 1971) in the Second Division 1st Grade competition, played for Combined 2nd Division twice (against New Zealand Under 23s and New Guinea) and played for Combined Australian Universities on two occasions.
In 1970 he led Sydney University Rugby League back to the First Division to play the pre-season Wills Cup competition for four games. University lost narrowly to Cronulla (12-2), Newtown (14-4) and North Sydney (20-8) but beat Wentworthville convincingly at Penrith Park to revenge the previous year’s grand final defeat.
He was a very tough, hard, uncompromising prop forward, whose nick name in the club was “The Pear” because of the shape of his body. Nobody in the opposition, including tough hard men who had played many years of First Grade Rugby League for clubs like Penrith and Cronulla were able to get on top of him when it came to the “hard stuff.”
Dave was overseas for a couple of years in the early 1970s teaching English. He returned to the club in 1974, resumed his leadership and turned to coaching. Although he still ran out for 2nd Grade for a couple of years during which they won the premiership in 1977. He then coached 1st Grade in 1978, ’79 and ’80, winning the University Cup 1st Division premiership in 1978 and making the Grand Final in 1979, where they were beaten 13-9.
He was a master tactician and was looked up to by everyone in the club for his football wisdom and his empathy with his players.
His last serious game of football was against Combined Canterbury Province, New Zealand, in 1978 during a club tour of the South Island. The tour group included players from all four grades then playing. Dave was 36 at the time and had not strapped on the boots for at least five years.
For the first 20 minutes he was unstoppable or unmovable. He was a wonder to behold for the younger players, who had not seen him in ‘action’.
When he ceased coaching he continued to perform an executive function for the club, assisting with coaching and other duties and also the inevitable organisation associated with a club with a large number of teams.
Dave’s primary occupation was that of a school teacher in the State school system, either teaching German, or teaching English to students with English as a second language. Most of his later teaching career was at Chatswood High School.
He was an outspoken progressive on social and political issues, willing to engage anybody within or without the club on the controversies of the day, be it Vietnam and conscription (which he opposed), apartheid, humbug and religion, among other topics.
For any young player at the club engaged in conversation with him at the Forest Lodge Hotel, or at the Grandstand, or watching him going ‘head-to-head’ with David Hill, Peter Hennessey, Ron Spackman, John Kean, Roger Allebone, Ron Clarke, John Floyd and others of like mind to him, was a wonder and an education.
He had a great sense of humour. He loved a laugh, but he also could display vicious temper, even petulance, when it was required or not! He could be both irascible and thoughtful and considerate; sometimes in the same spoken sentence!
He was always politically active. The high water mark of his activism was his incursion onto the Sydney Cricket Ground with Meredith Bergman and her sister Verity during the Springboks first game in Sydney during its 1971 tour. This created so much acrimony through the demonstrations that were held, that subsequently all Australian sporting teams severed sporting ties with South Africa until the abolition of apartheid.
During the Sydney games for the Springboks he, Meredith and Verity were the only people to get through the police cordon. He lent his membership card to Peter Hain, then a leading British anti-apartheid demonstrator later to become a British Cabinet minister, who was detected with Dave’s member’s ticket. It was confiscated and Hain was kicked out of the ground.
The Sydney Cricket Ground Trust issued David with a “show cause notice” as to why he should not forfeit his membership, which he had waited 20 years to receive. His 30-page diatribe against apartheid persuaded them that they should let the matter rest and simply issue him with a “renewal” notice. After the abolition of apartheid in the early 1990s, every year David was invited to attend the South African Embassy in Canberra for celebrations of South Africa’s National Day.
He helped to organise a ‘fun run’ to protest the dismissal of Gough Whitlam and his government in late 1975.
He liked a beer, a punt and Bob Dylan and ‘The Band’. He could recite Dylan’s lyrics as if it was poetry and like a stream of consciousness. He thought The Band’s ‘Cripple Creek’ summed up aspects of his life or personality in some way.
The funeral service for Dave will be at the South Chapel of the Eastern Suburbs Crematorium at 2pm on Thursday, July 14, with drinks afterwards at the Forest Lodge Hotel.