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Former Bulldogs player and Cronulla Leagues club president Jack Stewart at Sharks Leagues Club.

Ex-Canterbury centre Jack Stewart, believed to be the oldest living first-grader until his passing aged 99 last Saturday, was farewelled at a funeral on Thursday.

Stewart had a remarkable life. He played 36 games for Canterbury in 1941-42, 1944 and 1946-47 despite his football career being stalled by World War II service in New Guinea.

He was also an influential administrator, having been the longest-serving Cronulla Sharks Leagues Club president with a 19-year stint from 1972-1991. In 1977, Stewart oversaw the opening of the new Cronulla Leagues Club, which is now being refurbished.

The Bulldogs and Sharks each sent a wreath to Stewart's funeral at the Our Lady of Fatima Church in Caringbah.

Jack Stewart.
Jack Stewart. ©

Jack's son Peter Stewart described his father as an "old school type of guy ... strong, determined and incredibly physically tough" with a humble, self-deprecating sense of humour.

"He was the oldest of seven kids. There is only two surviving ones now, all the others have passed away."

Jack loved telling stories, Peter said, including a cracking yarn from a match he played against Ray Lindwall, the St George player turned champion Australian fast bowler who took 228 Test wickets.

"He made a break this day ... and Lindwall was playing fullback. Dad said: 'The coaches had told me Lindwall can't tackle, don't worry about him'," Peter recalled to

"So Dad tried to run over the top of Lindwall - and Lindwall actually cut him in half. He said he was more discreet the next time he made a break and got anywhere near Lindwall - he decided to chip over the top rather than be cut in half again!

An old school type of guy ... strong, determined and incredibly physically tough

Peter Stewart on how he'll remember his father Jack

"They're the stories he'd tell; he was always coming off second-best."

Stewart was a life member of various places such as De La Salle JRLFC, Cronulla Junior Rugby League and ClubsNSW. "He did a tremendous amount of work for a lot of organisations," Peter said.

As well as being Leagues Club president and a member of the Sharks' board, Stewart was president of the Cronulla District Junior Rugby League from 1972 until 1983.

His driving role in the Sharks purchasing land at Woolooware bordering their Endeavour Field home ground - turning a former rubbish tip site into a Leagues Club - helped secure the club's future.

"Of course, that land is now being developed - some may say overdeveloped - with all those units that are down there," Peter said.

"But that has set up the club financially. And certainly having their own home ground and their own club down there was a huge boost."

Former NSW premier Neville Wran cut the ribbon to signify the opening of the Leagues Club in '77 with Stewart alongside him.

Stewart regarded the late, great Cronulla centre Steve Rogers as the most complete footballer he ever saw, according to Peter.

And Jack's own footballing legacy lives on at Canterbury, with one of his jerseys displayed in their Leagues Club's memorabilia room.

His brothers Kevin and Frank are Bulldogs life members, with the Stewart Stand at Belmore Oval named after them.

Barry Pierce, who followed Jack in becoming a long-term Sharks chairman, said Stewart was highly-regarded by his peers.

Jack Stewart at Sharks Leagues Club prior to the start of refurbishments.
Jack Stewart at Sharks Leagues Club prior to the start of refurbishments. ©

"I learned a lot from him and it was a pleasure to be able to have two years with him on the board before he stood down," Pierce said.

In his later years, Peter helped Jack write a memoir featuring many of his war stories and other memories from a fascinating life.

One tale covers Jack's experience on a night in 1942 when Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour.

"Dad was on duty on the phone switch. When the invasion happened, one of the captains who was down on Sydney Harbour rang the general - the commanding officer in Sydney who was safely ensconced down in Parramatta - to tell him," Peter said.

"Dad took the call and the captain said, 'Put me through to general so-and-so'. Dad said it's one o'clock in the morning and he said, 'Just put me through, mate, I need to talk to the general'. 

"Dad then illegally left the line open to listen to the captain and the general. The captain told him we've got Japanese mini-subs in the Harbour, they're firing off torpedoes around the place.

"The general asked him a couple of quick questions and said, 'Have you got men here, have you got men there?'

"And the captain said, 'Yes, yes'. The general said, 'Well, you seem to have everything under control - I'm going back to bed. Give me a call in the morning, let me know how it goes'.

"Which was just an incredible reaction from a commanding officer - he was more worried about getting back to bed than the invasion of Sydney Harbour! Dad got to listen to that conversation."

In addition to Peter, Stewart is survived by grandchildren Melanie, Damian, Jacob, Andrew, Joel and Ashley and seven great grandchildren. His wife Mary and son Steve are deceased.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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