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Chippy bids farewell from QRL

It's a sombre day for Queensland Rugby League today as long-serving administrator Dave 'Chippy' Pearce bids farewell to the greatest game of all.

Retiring after 56 years of exemplary service as a player, coach and administrator, the Wide Bay legend concedes the one thing he's going to miss most is the game's people.

"The thing I’m going to miss the most is the workforce of the QRL," Pearce said.

"They're very amicable... great to get along with and everyone gets in and helps each other and nothing is ever too much trouble.

"That’s the thing I value the most with the organisation."

Chippy's rugby league journey began in Bowen Rugby League's inaugural under 14 team in 1966. He progressed to their A Grade team as a speedy outside back in 1969, and during his time in North Queensland, represented Whitsundays at the Foley Shield.

In the late 70s, Pearce moved to Bundaberg - where he's called home for the last 40 years - and played for Natives (now known as Easts Magpies), winning the premiership, in what he describes as his greatest game of his career, in 1980.

"I think the greatest game I've ever played in was the 1980 Bundaberg grand final between Natives and Past Brothers," Pearce said.

"There was only a four-team comp here, but it was a very tough four-team comp I might add.

"All four teams were involved in the semis in those days and we came from fourth and defeated Wests in the knock-out semi. We then played Wanderers in the major semi and beat them, and then we played Past Brothers in the grand final.

"We couldn't get on the paddock because we were so sore so we didn't train until the Thursday before the grand final and we ended up beating Brothers 4-0 with two penalty kicks.

"It was the hardest and toughest game I've ever played in I reckon. Holy hell it was tough."

Post his playing days, Chippy took up coaching, starting with a number of schoolboys teams, before progressing to the Wide Bay A Grade side - which saw seven of his players selected for the Queensland Rangers at the QRL State Carnival.

He was also a successful team manager, assisting the Queensland Under 19s for a number of years and being part of the triumphant Junior Kangaroos victory over the Junior Kiwis in 2000.

His team management highlight was being the camp manager for the Under 16 Queensland Academy of Sport program... but was a little dubious of the legitimacy of the offer at first when he was personally rung by 'the man' to be involved.

Pearce with Bundaberg Rugby League chair Mike Ireland.
Pearce with Bundaberg Rugby League chair Mike Ireland.

"Wayne [Bennett] rang me on a Saturday morning at home when he first kicked off the program," Pearce said.

"I answered the phone and the voice said 'G'day Dave, Wayne Bennett here'. 

"I paused for a moment because I was coaching a club side at the time and thought... 'this is a gee up'. 

"So I was like, 'oh yeah'... he said 'I just wanted to know if you were interested in coming on as the camp manager for the under 16 program?'

"And I said, 'oh yeah'.... he said, 'you'll get more information sent through later in the week'. And I said, 'oh yeah... thanks very much Wayne'. 

"My wife and son didn't believe it was Wayne at the time and started laughing when I told them who was on the phone so I had to convince them that it was actually 'the man'. Then when the mail came through later in the week, we all suddenly realised it was all true."

Pearce dived into rugby league administration in January 2007, beginning as the Northern Wide Bay area manager for the QRL, and has served as Wide Bay's league and club coordinator in recent times.

His proudest achievement was the 2016 NRL trial match held in Bundaberg, which happened to be against the previous years' grand finalists Brisbane and North Queensland.

"I actually planted the seed 12 months earlier [at the start of 2015] with Paul White… subsequently they went on to be the grand finalists and I had them here the following year as a trial," Pearce said.

"It rained all week, but we still had around 9000 people here. They packed it out and some were in ankle-deep mud on the far side, but still came and didn’t complain.

"It was tremendous to see the support. Everywhere was sold out… it was just packed."

Looking ahead to retirement, Pearce has a number of little projects lined up, but said he still wanted to volunteer in the game he loved. 

"I’ve got quite a bit of maintenance work to do around the house first of all, but the plan is to travel north," Pearce said.

"I’ve got relatives back up home and will probably get involved in some juniors and keep giving a hand somewhere because I want to keep doing something.

"It’s the game I love. It’s been over 50 years of my life and it’s something that I will never, ever give up."

He said his time with the QRL would not have been be possible without the support of his wife Dot and his family, who has been there every step of the way.

Dave and Dot Pearce.
Dave and Dot Pearce.

"I’d love to thank my wife for supporting me," Pearce said.

"There’s been plenty of times I’ve been away and I’ve missed out on family things and that.

"Dot and my family have been my mainstay and my strength every step of the way."

Today is also South Burnett league and club coordinator Lisa Anderson's last day after more than seven years with the QRL.

Her list of achievements across diverse communities is extensive and include hosting the inaugural QRL Central junior carnival which included the first 'tent city’, supporting and nominating Murgon Junior Rugby League who went on to win the NRL Community Club of the Year and inducting and mentoring school-based trainee Brenna Prendergast, who was the regional finalist in the Queensland trainee of the year awards, and later spent time as a successful administrator in the Toowoomba QRL office.

Much like Chippy, Anderson's time, when not involved the game, has been heavily with family and after recently relocating to Wide Bay, her future will no doubt include spending sunsets on Hervey Bay's coastline with her husband Roger.

The QRL family will always be indebted for Anderson and Chippy's long-standing service to the game and everyone wishes them all the best with their future endeavours.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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