League stalwart John Hobbs passes away

John Hobbs was a man renowned for his passion for sport, most notably rugby league and horse racing.

Hobbs also figured in the media with WIN Television and on radio, originally with 2 Double 0, later i98FM.

His calls of Steelers games with his sidekick and verbal sparring partner Jack Underwood are the stuff of Illawarra sporting legend.

On the rugby league field Hobbs played for Manly-Warringah in Sydney and was a captain-coach during the halcyon days of Illawarra rugby league with Wests, Collegians, Thirroul and Port Kembla and also with Kiama in Group Seven.

Illawarra lost one of its most passionate sporting figures when Hobbs died yesterday morning at age 80.

"Johnny Hobbs was a real rugby league and sporting personality," Illawarra rugby league supremo Bob Millward said yesterday.

His rugby league prowess started as a NSW primary and secondary schoolboy playing alongside Harry Wells, Ian Moir and Brian Clay, then joining Manly where he struck a lifelong friendship with Ken Arthurson before returning to Illawarra as one of the best captain-coaches until retiring in 1967.

Born at Mount Keira on February 13, 1933, Hobbs was a successful state schoolboy rugby league player from West Wollongong Primary School and Wollongong Tech.

The talented teenager soon attracted interest from Baden Wales and Frank Facer from St George, Vic Hey from Parramatta and Arnold Stehr from Manly.

After playing for Wests in the Illawarra league, Hobbs headed to Manly because of the influence of champion goal-kicking winger Ron Rowles and hooker Kevin Schubert, both from Wollongong.

It wasn't long before John was in first grade playing alongside captain-coach Wally O'Connell and Arthurson. Hobbs stayed with Manly for five years, playing more than 90 games. During that time, in 1954, Hobbs made his first senior representative team, for City Firsts which beat Country Firsts 50-9 and he scored three tries.

He also played representative rugby league against New Zealand twice in 1956.

He went to Cowra as captain-coach in 1957 where he represented Country against City.

Hobbs returned to Illawarra in 1958 to coach Western Suburbs, Collegians in 1959, Thirroul in 1960 before a memorable six years with Port Kembla. He ended his career at Kiama in 1967. From 1961-66 with Hobbs at the helm, Port Kembla made the semi-finals six times, including four grand finals and three premierships

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