League mourns loss of Rex Mossop
Rugby League has today mourned the passing of legendary player and pioneering broadcaster Rex Mossop.
A dual international and life member of his beloved Manly Sea Eagles, Rex died in Manly Vale last night at the age of 83 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
The memories of a giant second-row forward and later prop whose on field fire and remarkable talent carried him through five Rugby Union Tests, 12 Rugby League Tests, 129 games for Manly (including two Grand Finals) and then into the living rooms of millions of Rugby League fans over 27 years will stand tall for generations.
Rex Mossop was the man who pioneered Rugby League as the television sport it is today, with colourful commentary, expert opinion and fiercely held arguments on almost any issue.
“He wasn’t the first man to call Rugby League on television but he was the man who changed it forever,” NRL Chief Executive Mr David Gallop said today.
Rex’s ability to tackle the English Language as fiercely as his he did his on screen sparring partners Col Pearce, Alan Clarkson, Noel Kelly and Ferris Ashton as well as his ‘side-line-eye’ Barry Ross defined the way the game is analysed in the media to this day.
Terms like ‘forward progress’ or ‘verbal tongue lashings’ became light hearted lexicons of Rugby League’s language but nobody could ever doubt Rex’s authority in calling the game or commentating on an issue.
The son of a world war one veteran wounded in Passchendale, Rex Mossop was born in Five Dock in 1928.
He played first grade rugby for Manly at the age of sixteen and played five tests for the Wallabies between 1949 and 1951.
English Rugby League club Leigh lured him to the professional code for a reportedly staggering fee of 5,000poinds in 1951. He would play four seasons there before a back injury threatened his retirement.
Typically, he overcame the pain to begin an association with the Manly Sea Eagles that would become the stuff of sporting legend.
Rex played 129 games for the Sea Eagles over eight seasons, including Grand Finals against St George in 1957 and 59. Again typically, he was sent off in the latter along with Dragons rival Harry Bath.
He toured with the Kangaroos in 59-60, represented Australia in the 1960 World Cup and played on for Manly until 1963.
Off the field he had begun working with Stacks Holden one of the largest car dealerships In Sydney.
Never afraid of backing himself, Rex went straight for the front door when he saw Channel Seven advertise for a sports director.
Beating sixty applicants, presumably all of whom possessed more television credentials than he, Rex re-wrote the Television landscape in sport making his first appearance on air in 1964 and calling his first game in 1965 (only four years after Ray Stehr had carried out the first ever commercial telecast on Nine in 1961).
Rex would front Seven’s Big League and Controversy Corner each week for the next twenty one years before a final hurrah with the Ten network from 1986-1991.
“He was a giant character in the game,” NRL Chief Executive Mr David Gallop said today.
“He was incredibly tough and talented on the field and not a lot different in the commentary box.
“Rex’s sense of showmanship is something that will always be remembered and his contribution to bringing Rugby League to television audiences can never be understated.
“Rugby League remains the ultimate television sport and the character of broadcasters like Rex as they opened the game to new audiences was a big part of that success.”
ARL Chief Executive Mr Geoff Carr said today that Rex would be remembered as a fierce competitor and a fierce champion of Rugby League:
“He was passionate about Manly, passionate about the game and he will be sorely missed.”
The Manly club will wear black arm bands and hold a minute’s silence in memory of Rex Mossop before Monday night’s match against Parramatta.
Funeral details are yet to be released.