By Steve Ricketts – Queensland Rugby League History Committee
The rugby league and academic communities are mourning the death of former Queensland lock, Dr Joe Baker, 85, one of Australia's foremost marine scientists.
Dr Baker, a product of the Warwick Eastern Suburbs club, played two games for Queensland in 1959, making his debut against the touring New Zealand side, and then playing for his state against New South Wales.
The 1959 campaign was the last time Queensland won a series against the Blues, until the introduction of State of Origin football in the 1980s.
Although Queensland lost 34-19 to the '59 Kiwis, Dr Baker was close to best on field, scoring a try in a scrum base move with legendary halfback Barry Muir.
“Baker's cover defence was equal to anything Test lock Johnny Raper has done this year,” wrote The Courier-Mail's Jack Reardon.
Dr Baker joined Easts in Brisbane as an 18-year-old in 1950, when he moved from Warwick to take up a cadetship with the CSIRO. Dr Baker remained with Easts until 1960, scoring 53 tries and kicking 13 goals in 175 first grade appearances.
During this time, he represented Brisbane in the Bulimba Cup, the inter-city competition against Ipswich and Toowoomba.
In Townsville, he founded the University Rugby League Club, and in 1971 coached North Queensland to a win over Brisbane in the State Championship final. The playing fields at James Cook University in Townsville are named in his honour.
Dr Baker also was a founding board member of the Queensland Academy of Sport, overseeing the development of sports science and sports medicine services.
During his illustrious working life, he served as Chief Scientist at the Department of Primary Industries in Queensland, as well as being director of the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville. He was the first patron of the Australian Marine Sciences Association.
In 2001, Dr Baker was declared a 'Queensland Great', and honoured with a plaque in the new Roma Street Parklands.
His father, Dick Baker, a second rower, played four matches for Queensland, from Toowoomba Brothers, in 1933-34.
Dr Baker was a Life Member of Brisbane Easts, and in 2014 was named in the Warwick Team of the Century. In recent times, he was Commissioner for the Environment in the Australian Capital Territory, and was based in Canberra at the time of his passing.
He is survived by his wife, Val; four children and nine grandchildren. His funeral will be held in Canberra on Wednesday, January 24, (1pm) at Norwood Park Crematorium, Mitchell, ACT.