Rugby man doubles down in cancer fight
ASK anyone associated with the Queensland rugby scene if they know Peter Daley and they will look blankly and say, "Don't think so. Who does he play for?".
Ask them if they know Doubles Daley and the response will undoubtedly be: "Doubles? Of course I know him. Doesn't everyone?".
As he puts it, "Even my nephews call me Uncle Doubles."
Doubles Daley is one of those unforgettable characters that every sport and every sporting club has beavering away in the background.
The one without whom the club or the sport could not survive.
In his case it is rugby, and specifically Brisbane's Souths Rugby Club, who have been blessed with his presence for the past 44 years.
For almost as long as anyone can remember, Doubles has been a familiar sight at matches everywhere from Souths' home ground Chipsy Wood Oval to Ballymore to Suncorp Stadium, selling the "doubles" raffle tickets that gave him his nickname.
He estimates that he has personally sold over 340,000 tickets to raise funds for junior development, grassroots rugby and a long list of charitable organisations.
"Doubles is one of those blokes who is always there, year after year," said respected rugby writer Jim Tucker recently. "You can't imagine rugby without him."
Which is why, when word filtered out that Doubles is currently facing the fight of his life, it sent shockwaves through the Brisbane sporting community.
Three months ago Doubles went to see his GP when he had, as he puts it, "a feeling things weren't right".
Tests showed cancer in his bowel and lungs. He is awaiting further results after abnormalities were spotted this week in his oesophagus.
"It's like I'm in the boxing ring throwing punches," he said as he prepares for chemotherapy. "I've got a big battle on my hands over the next six months."
But he is not fighting alone. His phone is running hot with messages of support from the likes of Souths' Wallabies Andrew Slack and Quade Cooper, and every two days or so he gets a call from renowned former player and coach Alex Evans.
"Alex gives me the pre-match speech about focus and being positive. I get off the phone feeling like I've been in the dressing room waiting to run out on the field," Doubles said.
Which, ironically, is as close as he'll ever come to that experience.
"I'm the only life member of the Queensland Rugby Union to have never played a game," he laughs.
An eye defect prevented Doubles from playing contact sport during his school days at St Laurence's College. Instead he played in the band, was scorer for the cricket team and ran the sideline for the rugby sides.
His enthusiasm and organisational skills saw him appointed president of the school's sports committee. When he asked the brother in charge for some money to fund the committee's activities, he was told "I haven't got any money. If you want some you'll have to find it yourself."
When a friend took him to a Queensland rugby match at Ballymore, the 15 year-old for the first time saw doubles tickets being sold at the gate.
"What's that?," he asked his friend who explained the system. Two numbers between 1 and 15 - one for each team - per ticket. If the players wearing those jersey numbers were first scorer for their team, the ticket holder won a prize.
Doubles saw dollar signs. That night he got a black pen, pad and ruler and marked up a sheet of paper with every possible combination - 225 in all - then used the school's primitive photocopier to print out tickets which he sold at the next St Laurence's 1st XV match.
After a couple of weeks of successful fundraising a classmate christened him "Doubles" and a legend was born.
When he left school in 1974 he received a letter inviting him to join Souths.
"But I don't play," he said.
"Oh we don't want you to play," came the reply. "We've got bigger plans for you than that …"
Doubles has since held just about every off-field position possible at Souths - linesman, gear steward, secretary.
At the age of 29 he was made the club's youngest ever life member. For 30 years he was on the QRU development committee.
Wherever Doubles was needed he'd be there, and right beside him all the way was his wife Karen, who he married "the week after Souths won the 1986 grand final".
When Karen passed away after her own fight with cancer 10 years ago, every rugby club in Brisbane was represented at her funeral.
"That was hard," Doubles said. "I struggled after losing Karen but I learnt you just have to keep going. One step after another."
Just like he is now.