TRIBUTE: The man who made Gympie rugby league what it is
CORONAVIRUS has brought extensive interruptions to the Gympie sporting realm in 2020, but possibly also more pause to remember a name synonymous with local rugby league.
Jack Stokes brought a lifetime of passion and dedication to one of Australia’s oldest clubs, the Wanderers, back when they stood alongside Brothers, Rainbows and Suburbs as pillars of the great game in the region.
A president, life member and anything in between for the club, Jack worked tirelessly to keep the Wanderers thriving beyond their centenary year in 1991, all the way up until he passed away in 1997 at the age of 76.
It was this dedication that Jack also applied to securing a local oval for the club to run out on, week by week.
And like so many of his other sporting endeavours, it came to wondrous fruition.
The Wanderers finally had their very own field, and when Mayor Mick Venardos officially opened it in 1986, he called it Jack Stokes Oval.
Jack Stokes Oval it remains to this day, where the Gympie Devils’ juniors and seniors now share the facilities with the same pride as the field’s namesake.
Jack’s granddaughter Selina commemorated his legacy in the Devils’ Facebook community earlier this month.
“If you’re playing football on Jack Stokes Oval today take a moment to remember the man that made it,” Selina wrote.
Further tributes were quick to follow:
Desley Neal: Fond memories of a wonderful Rugby League identity. RIP Jack.
Philip William Webb: 23 years ago wow. Time flies. RIP Cracker, legend.
Bernadette O’Neill: Fond memories of the gentleman that brought us to Gympie. RIP Cracka.
Jackie Curran: An absolute lover of the game. Thanks Jack.
Jack’s son John recalled a deep love for the Wanderers, and for Gympie rugby league, shared by the whole family.
Whether it was strapping pads to posts, mowing the lawns or raising money at local pubs for his beloved club, Jack had the energy to get up and go again every day.
“Dad was all about sport, and football, and the Wanderers were his club,” John said.
“There’s photos of Dad everywhere, it’s what he lived for. Every Saturday morning he used to raise money for them all the time.
“People don’t know all the work he really did. He’d give and give and give until it hurt. Mum used to work in the canteen, it was a bit of a family thing.
“He never had an enemy in his life. He was just a really really nice guy. I’m proud to be his son. I can’t express how much he did for rugby league.
“He did more than he should have, but he loved it. You couldn’t stop him doing it.”
John said his father’s legacy would carry on as long as the love for rugby league remained strong in the community.
“He would love it. He’d love to see all the kids playing rugby league on the oval that he built for rugby league.
“Even if there’s other sports there, he wouldn’t have minded but the rugby league was what he loved.”