THOSE who love rugby union often say it is the sport they play in heaven, and if that’s true, Ken Laird will be one very happy man.
The Bathurst Bulldogs stalwart and Central West Rugby Union legend died on Sunday afternoon at Bathurst Base Hospital after a relatively short illness.
Laird was a life member, former president, coach, committee member and patron of Bulldogs. Bathurst’s home ground is named after him.
On top of that, he was a life member of both Central West Rugby Union and the Dubbo Kangaroos, plus a founding member, alongside his wife Joan, of the Sylvania Waters Junior Rugby Club.
“Basically he was Bathurst rugby, he was a bit of an icon really and not just Bathurst rugby, but the Central West. His contribution was just enormous when you look at it, so it’s a pretty sad old day,” Bulldogs president John Maynard said.
“His influence has been enormous … that’s the reason his name is on the field.
“He was patron of Central West as well and had been a patron I think since he stepped down as president. He was president for us for 11 years, and don’t forget he was involved with Central West and Country at the same time as well.
“If you could’ve played 52 weeks a year he would’ve loved it, he couldn’t understand why the blokes wouldn’t suck it up in the summer time and play then as well. He did like rugby.”
It has been a tough period for the Bathurst club, with another well-known and respected Bulldog in Sandy Robinson dying late last month.
He was a life member, premiership winner, coach and committee member.
“For those guys like Shane Cantrill and Matt McRobert, Michael Begley, Phil Newton – those guys came through in the 90s – they were actually coached by Sandy,” Maynard said.
“Then Ken, he was respected by, known by everyone.”
Laird was president when Bathurst Bulldogs won its first Central West Rugby Union premiership in 1977, while he was at the helm for another seven title-winning seasons. He was also Bulldogs’ president when Walmer Park opened in 1980.
This Saturday Bathurst Bulldogs will be aiming to defend the Ken Laird Trophy – a piece of silverware that goes on the line each time it faces the Dubbo Kangaroos. The fixtures will be played in Dubbo.
“It just so happens that it;s straight after he passes so it’s going to be a pretty tough old day for both clubs,” Maynard said.
“Dubbo will be fantastic on Saturday, they always are and we get along well with them ... I am sure this one will be a bit special.
“It’s based on the whole day, it’s a club trophy for whoever wins the most competition points on the day. So you might win two, lose two, but if you get a bonus point and they don’t, then you get the trophy.”