Murwillumbah league legend Ron Saddler mourned
THE RUGBY League community across Australia is in mourning after former Murwillumbah, Eastern Suburbs Roosters and Australian indigenous player Ron Saddler passed away yesterday.
After growing up in the Riverina region of NSW, Mr Saddler was recruited by Murwillumbah Brothers in 1961, where he cut his teeth in the tough Tweed District competition, winning premierships in his first two years with the club.
From 1963 until 1971, Mr Saddler starred as an elusive, hard-hitting centre for the Roosters, and in 1967 he was named as the first indigenous captain of NSW.
During a tour of England and France in 1967 and 1968, illness and injury restricted Mr Saddler to only playing 12 games from a possible 27.
During his illustrious career, Mr Saddler played alongside greats such as Arthur Beetson, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands and Bob Fulton.
Following a long battle with dementia, Mr Saddler's son Brent said his father passed away peacefully at Kingscliff's Blue Care Nursing Home on Thursday, with his wife Carol by his side.
"When dad toured for Australia in 67 and 68 I wasn't born, and I didn't see a lot of his games for the Roosters, except photos and an old VHS tape we had, but I saw his games when he came back and played for Murwillumbah," he said.
"I relied on a lot of things his mates like Arthur Beetson told me about him like that he was a strong fast runner with a really good step and could hit "bloody hard".
"All the blokes around Murwillumbah he would run at them and cut them in half with his tackles...that's what he was renowned for, his defence and running hard.
"He talked about his fondest moment being the 67 and 68 tour of England and France with Bob Fulton and Graeme Langlands and the other legends."
Once his rugby league career was over, Brent said his father rarely talked about the game.
"You wouldn't even know he played for the Roosters and NSW and Australia because he was just that type of bloke; he never spruiked about his football career," he said.
An all-round sportsman, Brent said his father also excelled at golf, with a handicap of four, cricket and tennis.
Once he retired from rugby league, Mr Saddler worked for the Northern Rivers County Council as a linesman.
An "Indigenous all-star", Mr Saddler will go down in history as one of the Roosters greats.
He is survived by his wife Carol, daughter Amanda and son Brent.
The public are welcome to pay their respects to Mr Saddler's family on Tuesday from 1pm at Murwillumbah's All Saints Anglican Church.
Following the service a tribute to his life will be held at Brothers Leagues Club.