Tom Wilcox, who died on Wednesday,13 July 2011 after a prolonged illness, was the longest serving member of the Box Hill RUFC, having joined what was then the Eastern Suburbs RUFC in 1960, a year before adoption of its present name.
Born in Sydney in 1931 Tom learned his rugby at Fort Street High, incidentally, as the Club history records, the school which founding member Ken Shortridge had attended a generation earlier. While still playing for Petersham Juniors Tom was member of that club’s team which toured Victoria in 1948 and, before tearing a knee ligament at the age of twenty, possible harbinger of much later problems, was several times selected for NSW State teams.
Not long after W.R.Grace Ltd., Tom’s first and only employer, had transferred him to Victoria, word that he was living in Box Hill came to the ears of the fledgling Eastern Suburbs Club and Ken Shortridge wrote to him on New Years Eve 1959 inviting him to attend the AGM the following February. This he did and was duly appointed Club coach for 1960, a position he retained in 1961 and during which time he organised the Club’s first tour, to Wagga Wagga.
In 1962 he had to return to Sydney for six months then spend another two months in the Far East. In fact, up until his retirement in 1993 Tom’s work commitments frequently required him to travel interstate or overseas and for two years, 1986 and 1987, he was based in New Zealand. While enthusiastically promoting Box Hill on visits to countries such as South Africa, Canada and Japan he got involved more directly with the Club when back home in Victoria.
He turned out for Club teams whenever possible, breaking a leg in a second grade match against Quins in 1968 but later returning for occasional appearances up until 1972. He then took on refereeing and for three years served as President of the VJRU. In 1979 he was appointed Chairman of the Club’s Selection Committee and in the following three years, 1980 to 1982, was Club President. While gratifying to him to secure Box Hill’s fifth VRU Club Championship before the end of that term Tom’s most significant achievement was the first extension of the clubrooms, which virtually doubled the upper floor function area (now named after him) and added a kiosk to the western end of the new building. This required the commitment of what in today’s values would be more than $80,000, an amount which, when one considers the difficulty of extracting individual subscriptions, might well have daunted the fainter hearted but which Tom set out to obtain in typically positive fashion.
He remained on the Club Committee as Vice President in 1983 and was then elected to the VRU Executive for the next three years, taking up the post of VRU Assistant Secretary, left vacant on the death of Griff Hunt.
The Club elected Tom a Life Member in 1985 and in subsequent years he undertook various executive tasks including Directorships in Marketing and Media and in 1990 was prevailed upon to once again serve as President at a time when the Club was in need of a strong hand at the helm.
In 2003 he was awarded an Australian Centenary Medal in recognition of his contribution to sport and up until 2006 he wrote the match reports for the Club and ensured, with his customary diligence, that his copy met the deadlines of the local Press. The latter, if not actually badgered, were strongly encouraged by Tom to attend special Club functions and to assign photographers to Sparks Reserve as often as possible on Saturday afternoons.
Under the age dispensation which then applied Tom had played his first game for the Club as a member of the Under 19 Colts team which in April 1960 travelled down to play Navy at what is now called Cerberus but was then the Flinders Naval Depot. He last took the field in Club colours at Sparks Reserve fifty years later, in September 2009, when an Over Sixties match had been arranged as part of the Club’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. As deteriorating health caused him to arrive a little late for that match he was once again granted dispensation and with characteristic enjoyment played instead in the Over Fifties match which followed.
Tom Wilcox contributed a great deal to the Club and to the Union over many years and was rewarded by seeing his sons and grandsons follow him in playing for Box Hill; one regret being that he was unable to get to the ground to see them play in his final year. But while Tom, together with stop watch and explicit commentaries, will no longer feature at Sparks Reserve, it is there that his legacy will long remain.