Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans fought back tears as he spoke of the legacy of one of the game’s greatest ever players, Bob Fulton, who died aged 74 on Sunday.
As a Kangaroos captain, coach and selector, Fulton‘s influence over rugby league was immense.
But his sway at Manly as a premiership-winning coach and captain is impossible to measure.
The news of his passing after a long illness has rocked rugby league, including Sea Eagles players and officials who were told of his death when they were travelling on the bus on the way to Sunday’s clash with Parramatta.
Following a gutsy 28-6 victory over their fierce rivals at Bankwest Stadium, Cherry-Evans said the reality of Fulton‘s passing earlier in the day had started to hit him.
“Rugby league can be such a cruel game sometimes, it gives you some of the lowest points but it gives you the highest points,” he said.
“The best thing I and the team could have done today was perform well out of respect to the news.
“It’s not until after the game that it’s all hit and it’s really saddening.
“He is someone who has made such a massive mark on the game, these moments are never easy to swallow but I hope in some small degree we’ve made his family proud on what will be a difficult day for them.”
Tributes flowed through the day for the revered Immortal, including from long-time rival coach and fellow Australia squad member Wayne Bennett who put Fulton among the game’s best.
“I’ve seen a lot of players and he was up there with the greatest players I have ever seen in our game,” Bennett said.
“He was a hell of a competitor as well. He was someone that hated to lose as a player and a coach.
“He was a pretty innovative guy as well. A great loss to the game. He was Manly through and through.”
Des Hasler was brought to the Sea Eagles by Fulton in 1984, with the two spending almost all of Hasler’s first-class career together as player and coach.
“Bozo is an absolute legend of the game and to many of us he was a friend, a mentor and his legend that he brought to the game will never be forgotten,” Hasler said.
“He was a winner, there was no doubt about that, there was always a way, and if not you have to find that way.”
Fulton made his debut with Manly in 1966 and was a part of the club’s first three premierships, playing centre or five-eighth.
His most famous performance came in their 1973 grand final success, where he scored two tries in the 10-7 win over Cronulla.
Fulton‘s career was ended prematurely at 269 games when he was cruelled by a knee injury in 1979.
He had played 35 Tests for Australia and 16 matches for NSW.
Such was his influence as a player, he was inducted as one of the sport’s first four Immortals alongside Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier and Clive Churchill in 1981.
He later coached Manly to two titles in separate stints at the club in 1987 and 1996.
He also spearheaded the Australia side for seven years, winning World Cups in 1992 and 1995 along with victories in 32 of his 39 games in charge.