The son of rugby league legend Bob Fulton has described his father as his “hero” and “best mate” at a state funeral attended by media personalities, politicians and sporting elites.
The rugby league Immortal died last month, aged 74, after a long battle with cancer.
Famously nicknamed “Bozo”, Fulton made his debut with the Manly Sea Eagles in 1966, and was part of the club’s first three premiership wins, before making a shock switch to Eastern Suburbs.
One of the sport’s original four Immortals when the concept was unveiled in the 1980s, Fulton also played 35 Tests for Australia and 16 matches for NSW in the pre-State of Origin era.
His son, former rugby league player Brett Fulton, said his father taught him the importance of respect and loyalty.
“He was the centre of our universe, he would talk to us multiple times a day,” he said.
“You knew it was dad calling because it was a private number and he would always greet us with a familiar, ‘Listen’.
“[His grandchildren] will never forget him or the lessons learned.”
Brett Fulton had tears in his eyes as he described his dad as his hero, mentor and best mate.
“From a young age I had a desire to want to make you proud. I hope I did that,” he said.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Health Minister Brad Hazzard attended the service at St Mary’s Cathedral, along with sporting officials including Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’Landys.
The entire Manly Sea Eagles team were among the congregation farewelling Fulton, as well as the NSW Blues squad who formed a guard of honour.
Fulton’s former colleagues, broadcasters Ray Hadley and Alan Jones paid tribute to their close friend.
“This is a very sad moment for many of us but in a sense, no one ever dies until the memories fade away, and we have very special memories of Bob,” Jones said in a tearful eulogy.
Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, opened the service by praising Fulton as one of Australia’s greatest ever players.
He said he was a “driven man” whose competitive spirit “propelled him to great heights”.
“Football for many Australians is like religion not just for its heroes…but also because it demonstrates values like personal besting, teamwork, courage, creativity and perseverance,” he said.
“Bob Fulton was a high priest of that religion.
“Private and good humoured through his battle with cancer, when a nurse asked him what he did for a living he said ‘I look after my family’.”
In the program for the funeral, Fulton’s daughter Kristie wrote a letter to her dad saying it was an “absolute privilege” to be able to call him her father.
“You were so giving and generous with your time and would talk to anyone from all walks of life,” she wrote.
The English-born ball-player, who grew up in Wollongong, also had success at an international level, coaching Australia to 1992 and 1995 World Cup wins with victories in 32 of his 39 games in charge.
He remains the only player to win a premiership and Ashes series as a player, captain and coach.
Fulton is survived by his wife Anne, sons Scott, Brett and daughter Kristie.