LOVING LIFE: Ron Bateman turns 100. He loves playing bingo at CSI. Here he is calling bingo next to his wife, Fay. His secret? Good food.
LOVING LIFE: Ron Bateman turns 100. He loves playing bingo at CSI. Here he is calling bingo next to his wife, Fay. His secret? Good food. Rob Williams

Ipswich's would-be rugby league star hits a century

WHEN Ron Bateman was born, the Great War was coming to an end and movies were still silent.

Today, Ron turns 100.

Ron's life has been full of adventure. Aged 20, he moved to Mt Isa to work in the mines, a decision that dashed his hopes of joining the army.

Miners were considered essential. Ron's enrolment papers were torn up and he was sent back to the Isa.

Later, Ron managed to enlist. He was posted to Holsworthy Barracks near Sydney and so began some of the best days of his life, before his return to Ipswich in the '60s.

Ron loved rugby league but wasn't allowed to play while he was in the army. He came up with an ingenious solution.

He joined up at with Eastern Suburbs first grade team, now the Roosters, under an alias - John Byrne. Only there was a flaw in his plan.

"Superstars who win matches single-handed tend to stand out," Ron's son Peter Grant said.

The Manly Daily news wrote a piece about "John Byrne" along with his picture.

"When the army chief saw the paper, Ron's rugby days were over," Peter said.

For Ron, the secret to a long life wasn't that much much of a secret.

"Good meals. A good cook and a good wife," Ron, who has been blessed all three of those things, said.

Ron's life is full of more than eating and spending time with his adoring wife. He loves bingo and the staff at CSI where he plays four times a week.

 

The tale of Ron Bateman

AS Ron approached 100 his son Peter Grant wrote this piece on his dad's life adventures.

RON Bateman was born on the 21st February 1918 in Panton St Woodend, Ipswich.

Ron has seen a lot of change in Ipswich.

 

Ron Bateman turns 100.
Ron Bateman turns 100. Rob Williams

At age 14 he delivered milk using a horse and sulky.

He was pretty speedy they tell me. One day when he was doing his rounds he took a corner too fast and rolled the sulky. It was St Paddies Day and no one got any milk that day.

At 20 Ron moved to Mount Isa to work in the mines. When the war started Ron and his mates drove from Mt Isa to Brisbane to enlist.

In those days, a trip like that took a week.

Ron completed all the paper work, passed the physical (easily) and was ready to become a soldier.

When the recruitment officer tore up his papers in front of him. You weren't allowed to join the army if you worked in the mines. It was an essential service. So back to Mt Isa they went.

A couple of years later Ron moved back to Ipswich in a different job - the war was still on. He attempted to join the army again and was successful.

This started a new chapter in his life - one he says were his best days.

Ron was posted to Holsworthy Barracks near Liverpool Sydney where he met a number of lifelong friends and his best mate Frank Barnard.

Up until 10 years ago Ron and Frank and all a big groups of his mates would catch up (bi-annually) at Holsworthy barracks for the weekend.

The Army to their credit put them up in the barracks and gave them open access to the Sergeant's Mess. And believe me they took advantage of that access.

Ron is a master of many sports - snooker, table tennis, golf, cards and best of all football. In fact, at rugby league or union he was a superstar.

Before joining the army, he had played for Ipswich in the Bulimba Cup.

For those who remember it the Bulimba Cup was a fierce competition between Ipswich, Brisbane and Toowoomba.

Ron was selected in the Australian Armed Services team to play Papua New Guinea and he was the captain coach of Holsworthy team.

Holsworthy is a massive base. Ron would take his team for training runs that went through bush, over rivers (in full football gear), up and down hills.

And that was the warm up for training.

But Ron couldn't get enough football. He wasn't allowed to play Rugby League while he was in the army but he figured out a way to beat that rule.

So, Ron joined up at Eastern Suburbs (people know them today as the Roosters) First grade team under an alias of John Byrne.

And this would have worked well if Ron was an ordinary player. The problem for Ron is that superstars who win singlehanded matches tend to stand out.

The sports journalists for the Manly Daily news wrote a piece complaining how this John Byrne bloke thrashed his Manly team.

This along with a picture was enough to break Ron's cover - his Army chief read the paper and Ron's rugby league days were over.

In the 1960's Ron settled back in Ipswich where he met my mother - Fay. He has been a loving and respectful partner for almost 50 years.

No surprises - Ron is a great bloke and a gentleman. His daughter Shirley and his grandchildren will all attest to that.

Ron has never looked his age. I remember him winning a round of drinks on his 60th birthday.

At 60 Ron looked 40 so he bluffed his mates at the Cecil Hotel into betting his age. He produced his driver's licence and they all bought him a beer.

Ron retired in the 1970's but continued to contribute to the community for many years - working pro bono for the Ipswich RSL.

He went on to have a long association with the club and subsequently Fay joined up with the RSL ladies' committees. Later Fay was awarded life membership for her volunteer work.

Ron enjoys a full and exciting life.

He has worked hard, played hard and excelled at everything he took on.

It's one thing to be 100 - but even better to have had 100 years of fun, excitement and good friendships.

That is even more special.


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