4 days ago
To a boy growing up in Brisbane in the 1950/60s George Lovejoy was the voice of Rugby League. My father and I listened to his Friday night preview at 6 p.m. on 4BH and hurried home from the Saturday game, whether it be a club game, Bulimba Cup, representative trial, Interstate or Test, to listen to his 6 o'clock review. (When I was old enough to own a transistor, I listened to his call during the game). The same scene was repeated on Sunday after a local club game.
Rugby League, formed in 1895 in Huddersfield in England as a 'revolt' against the English Rugby Union Establishment, was and still is the main winter sport in Queensland and one of the great traditions in working-class culture in this state. In an age before television, George, through his highly energetic commentary, brought the drama of this great game to the homes of ordinary Queenslanders.
George died on 5 February aged 79 years. I attended his funeral and thought about his extraordinary career. In 1996 I interviewed him as part of my study on the social history of the Brisbane Rugby League.
On and off the tape George told me his favourite stories of the reasons behind calling a Bulimba Cup game in 1957 from the roof of a house in Ipswich, his jostle with the great English commentator Eddie Waring at the Exhibition Grounds during the 1966 Brisbane v Great Britan match, his professional relationship with the Sydney commentator and former great player Frank Hyde and his friendship with a large number of players, including the great and memorable Fonda Metassa.
He also told me that he regarded Duncan Hall as the best player he had ever seen and in his later years Wally Lewis took on this mantle.
After finishing commentating in 1967 he became manager of 4BH. All his life he was involved in amateur theatre and in his later years he toured Queensland reciting 'bush poetry'.
In my view George was the best Rugby League caller ever and he had enormous influence over present day commentators. He invented the expression "Rugby League Football, The Greatest Game of All" and will be remembered as one of the great characters of Brisbane and Queensland.