Norm Rule received his Australian cap in front of 80,000 people.
Norm Rule received his Australian cap in front of 80,000 people.

Ipswich farewells a sporting great

IPSWICH will today farewell a man who not only left his mark on the football pitch, but also played a key role in the city's proud coal-mining past.

Norm Rule was an Ipswich born and bred sporting talent who was blessed with a great mind for business but also a big, generous heart.

It was a rare combination of attributes that made him such a popular character wherever he roamed, which was never too far from Ipswich for too long.

He donned the green and gold jersey for the Australian soccer teams of the 1950s and paved the way for the church league to get under way in Ipswich.

He was part of the committee that led the campaign to build the Bundamba swimming pool, and carried the torch during the Sydney Olympic torch relay in 2000.

Perhaps most importantly; during an extremely busy life in which he managed Rosewood's Oakleigh mine, he was a father to four children and a grandfather and great-grandfather to many more.

 

One of Norm Rule's proudest moments, carrying the Sydney Olympic torch.
One of Norm's proudest moments, carrying the Sydney Olympic torch.

Norm passed away with family by his side after suffering a stroke on October 4. He was 87 years old.

One of Norm's three sons, Mike Rule, said Norm attended school at Bundamba and then Central Boy's School, but left in grade 8 to attend the Technical College on Limestone St. Norm was a talented sportsman from a young age, making the Queensland Schoolboys cricket side, but it was on the soccer field where he stood out most.

"Dad used to tell us a story about his earlier playing days, when the pie man used to come around and deliver pies," Mike recalled.

"One day he said to dad, 'I hear you are going alright at the soccer, well I tell you what, I will give you a pie for every goal you score today'.

"Dad said, 'You are on, as long as you make them fruit pies'. He went out and scored 14 goals that game, getting a pie for each member of his team."

 

Norm Rule at Oakleigh Mine, around the time it was sold in 1990.
Norm Rule at Oakleigh Mine, around the time it was sold in 1990.

By 15, Norm was playing A-Grade football for Bundamba Rangers, alongside the likes of fellow Australian representative Bob Lawrie.

Norm rated Scottish import Alex Gibb as his favourite Australian player, but in terms of the best ever player he took the field against, it would be England's Sir Stanley Matthews.

"Dad said Stanley Matthews was that good, he couldn't get close enough to tackle him in the three games they played against England," Mike said.

Norm also told stories about his friendly rivalries with other Ipswich legends like tough-as-nails Chooky Vogler and elusive Spencer Kitching, the latter of whom he said, "could run faster with the ball at his feet than without it".

Off the field, Norm carved a career in the mining industry from 1948. Norm, his father and uncle purchased the Oakleigh mine, eventually arranging for the coal to be sold to buyers in Japan and northern NSW. Norm was known for working underground and doing a lot of the truck driving himself, after promising the hospitals in NSW that they would never be short on coal.

 

Norm Rule goes head to head with a big red roo at Lone Pine circa 1970s.
Norm Rule goes head to head with a big red roo at Lone Pine circa 1970s.

He was chairman of Mines Rescue when the Box Flat disaster hit Ipswich in 1972.

His work both in the mines and the community at large earned him the Queensland Business Executive of the Year award in 1985, and Ipswich Citizen of the Year in 1988.

Norm married wife Coral at age 20 and the pair welcomed children Wendy, Mike, Robert and Gary into the world.

The family called Bird St home, at Bundamba, living in a house Norm built himself.

Coral passed away seven years ago.

The Rule family sold Oakleigh in 1990 and after eventually retiring from mining, Norm pursued his dream of being a beef cattle farmer, and bought a big parcel of land at Cecil Plains, west of Toowoomba. He later sold the farm and retired to a unit overlooking the ocean at Maroochydore, where he loved sitting with a telescope and keeping track of the container ships coming and going from the Port of Brisbane.

In later life, Norm was honoured for his sporting achievements, with an invitation to carry the Olympic torch as part of the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics.

In 2013, on the same night the Socceroos sealed a spot in the 2014 World Cup with a win over Iraq in front of 80,000 fans, Norm was honoured with an Australian cap in a special half-time ceremony at ANZ Stadium.

Norm was presented with cap number 163, acknowledging his place in Australian football history.

Though he had a way of sticking to his guns when it came to business, Norm was also a Christian man who lived by a philosophy of not seeking revenge on those who did the wrong thing by him.

Mike said his father instilled values of being honest and doing to others what you would have them do unto you.

"A few people did the dirty on dad over the years but he never did anything about it, he would just say that he had learned a lesson from it," Mike said.

Norm's funeral will be held at the Bundamba Salvation Army Church, Coal St, Friday, 10am.