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Legendary Diehard Norm Pope, passed away on Tuesday at his home at Stafford. Norm 71, apparently died of a stroke. A terrible loss will be felt by many long-time Brisbane rugby league followers.
Norm joined the ranks of the Diehards in 1950, when he was signed as an 18 year old from Balmain juniors. After playing just one trial for the Diehards, Norm never played any lower grade than firsts. After learning his goalkicking trade from international Joe Jorgensen, he came to Brisbane and pioneered goalkicking with the toe from a mound, and was easily the best in Queensland - some say the country.
In 1958 when rugby league adopted Lang Park as its headquarters, Brisbane Rugby League officials threatened to ban Norm from playing for "digging holes" all over their nice new ground !!! Norm had 14 shots at goal that day.......(Sand was not used initially, so the field was dug onto which the ball was placed.)
Norm represented Brisbane and Queensland on dozens of occasions, and also played one test at the SCG where he landed 5 goals.
Norm was top goalkicker in Brisbane almost every year he played until his initial retirement in 1964, also winning the top-scorer's award on 6 occasions. 1952 was spent playing for Railways in the Rockhampton competition, where he set many pointscoring records, some still standing today.
Three of Norm's records have stood the test of time in Brisbane - 330 points in one season including rep matches, and 41 points in one game from a try and 19 goals from 21 attempts, including one 55-yard showstopper. He is also the all-time highest points-scorer in Brisbane rugby league.
Norm captain-coached Valleys and Brisbane, and coached Valleys, Wests and Brisbane in his illustrious career.
Known as a very capable fullback, Norm was reknown for a "tough style of tackling" in the last line of defence, and plenty-tough players would look for alternate ways of getting through Valleys' defence !!! There were plenty of great players in Brisbane during his playing years, that will also attest to Norm being the difference between Valleys winning and losing.
In 1972 as coach of Wests, Norm made his one and only appearance for the Panthers at the age of 41, when he came on as a second-half replacement against Wynnum-Manly at Langlands Park.
Apparently the story has many versions, but one fact does remain constant, that Norm's decision to play was made "on the heat of the moment" as retribution for a backplay incident on a Wests player in the first half. The Seagulls player did not finish that match.
Norm's passing is a big loss to all those who follow the game.