Bundaberg lost a sporting great this month, with the passing of Don Nixon, at the age of 87.
Nixon was the youngest of seven boys and was highly respected amongst various rugby league circles for his passion and lifelong involvement with the sport.
Born in Emerald in 1931, Nixon moved to Bundaberg and while he was a keen swimmer and surf lifesaver – rugby league always remained his true passion.
At only a young age, his natural talent was on full display.
At the mere age of 14, Nixon was selected in a combined Wide Bay Secondary Schools team to play a curtain raiser to a Bulimba Cup match; as a result, was selected in the Queensland Secondary Schools side who were set to play NSW in Sydney – only for the game to not eventuate.
This proved to be Nixon’s only chance to wear a Maroon’s jersey.
When those around him asked his thoughts on never getting to play for Queensland, Nixon had nothing but respect for those he played with.
When asked – he was known to respond along the lines of: In the hey-day of Noel Hazzard, Rex McGlynn, Ted Barnes, and Bernie Drew, he was happy to be playing in their company as they were all great players who got no breaks, but made it the hard way at a time when Queensland rugby league was of a very high standard.
In 1947, Nixon joined the Natives Football Club and became the club’s third grade hooker.
The following year, one of Nixon’s brothers, Alan, was appointed coach of new club Millaquin and Nixon followed him.
After one game in junior ranks, he was promoted to the senior team despite, only being 16 years old.
This was set to be the start of his long and distinguished rugby league career.
In 1951, Bundaberg enjoyed a successful representative season, only losing two of their seven matches they played (to Maryborough and Toowoomba).
In a match against a highly fancied Brisbane side, who boasted several state players such as Mick Crocker, Brian Davies and Wally McDonald, they overcame a 23-11 deficit at halftime to run out eventual 37-31 winners.
After another great season in 1966, Nixon was quizzed on which he side he thought was better.
His tactful response was that “the game is quite different now, as in 1951 there was a one-yard rule and 1966 there is a five-yard rule.”
Nixon also played for eight years with the Railways Football Club and expressed it was a very happy association during this time.
Nixon played in nine Bundaberg Rugby League Premiership winning teams and was captain on six occasions.
Many rugby league supporters from his era will to this day claim Don Nixon as probably the best player to never of worn a maroon jersey.
Nixon was even named in the QRL Wide Bay Team of the Century in what was a fitting honour for one of the games’ most loyal servant.
>> Written with notes from Dave Pearce QRL Central Division Operations Manager and Bundaberg News-Mail.