Vale Lyn Crowley

Wed, Dec 21, 2022, 1:00 AM
Reds Media Unit
by Reds Media Unit

Queensland Rugby is mourning the passing of Life Member, Lyn Crowley, at 83 years of age, after a short battle with cancer.

Crowley’s devotion to Rugby Union spanned more than six decades as a forthright Queensland administrator, benefactor, club player and elder.

His passing will impact many in Queensland Rugby because he was such a force of nature within Rugby at all levels of the game in Queensland.

He began with his beloved club Wests as a fierce and determined first grade hooker in the 1959. Nothing changed when he moved off the field where he was always in the thick of the action, making decisive administrative calls, driving the building of the 1960s clubhouse, or providing untold hours of legal advice. He was a successful lawyer by day, and fought for club, state and country with that same unyielding approach as he had in the boardrooms. He was Club Secretary (1965-67), Club Captain (1969) and Club President (1972-74) at Wests, but his influence spanned decades beyond. When a player, he was part of the vote for Wests to set-up home at Toowong Memorial Park in 1961 and then led the charge for the Bulldogs to have sole occupation of the grounds. 

More recently, his legal expertise came to the fore again when the modern clubhouse and commercial set-up at Wests took shape, and he also re-wrote the club’s constitution in 2018.  He was the lead advocate for a book to be written on the club’s rise from humble, homeless hopefuls to “a place among the upper echelon of clubs in Australia.” His relentless drive in his 80s made certain that “BULLDOG! BULLDOG! - 70 Years of Wests Rugby” was released earlier this year. Finally, in September of this year, during what were to be his last few months, he smiled with great satisfaction as his Bulldogs won him a final premiership, their first in 16 years. 

At state level, he was made a Life Member of the Queensland Rugby Union in 1985 after a decade of service on the then-Management Committee during a golden period for the code in Queensland. 

He became renowned as a man of great ideas about how the game in Queensland could be promoted in a crowded sports market. He championed the old Ballymore venue as a major rugby venue, and among a small group who pushed for games with New Zealand provinces as a way to strengthen an already emerging generation of players in the 1970s. His promotional bent was always strong, and it was Crowley who invented the classic “Boo A Blue” at Ballymore line for the QRU to publicise a 1977 interstate game, infuriating NSW rugby powerbrokers in the process.  “The reaction from NSW...that just made it,” the passionate Crowley would respond. 

He rose to the Executive and Council of the Australian Rugby Union, where his passion was just as strong as it was at the QRU and as a loyal Wests club man.  According to Alan Jones, the Wallabies coach at the time - “When the ARU was unsupportive of a proposal ahead of the famous Grand Slam tour of the British Isles in 1984, to appoint the first official assistant coach of the Wallabies (Alec Evans), Lyn stood his ground in support and the rest is history”.

Crowley was wedded to Rugby. He and his bride Jenny were on honeymoon in 1965, when he was elected Wests’ Club Secretary. In the mid-’60s, he was a key figure in the formation of the Kenmore and Ashgrove juniors, even making overtures to the nuns at St Finbarr’s in Ashgrove which led to the primary school’s boys doing a letterbox drop to encourage sign-ups. 

It was only ever Rugby for Crowley. Stories abound of him scuppering the efforts of those trying to watch the Brisbane rugby league match-of-the-day on Sunday nights on the TV at Wests Rugby Club. In fact at one point he was the target of an approach to join the QRL as an administrator, and his declining of the offer was typically forthright and to the point, “If they want to know how to promote their game better, all they have to do is change the rules and play fifteen men a side!” was Lyn’s parting advice.

Crowley would have enjoyed the symmetry in moving to heaven’s chapter of the Front-Row Club on the same day, five years apart, as his dear friend and Bulldogs teammate, the great Red and Wallaby Stan Pilecki. Stan will no doubt be waiting to usher in his old friend, who would take time to stop for a firm handshake before heading to his first board meeting for “The Game They Play in Heaven”. 

Lyn is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jenny, his daughters Megan and Rachel, and much-loved grandchildren Orla and Patrick. Funeral details are being finalised for January, with a wake to follow at Wests Rugby Club.