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Vale Stu Pankoff

Former Test rugby league forward Dan Dempsey once publicly declared that Tivoli Tigers' and Ipswich representative forward Stu Pankoff was good enough to follow in his footsteps into the Australian team.

Dempsey, speaking at a farewell banquet for winger Denis Flannery in 1952, said Pankoff should have been accompanying the Ipswich Brothers' flyer to Britain and France with the Kangaroos. 

A veteran of seven Tests for Australia, Dempsey had toured Britain with the Kangaroos in 1929-30 and 1933-34, from Tivoli Tigers, and went on to coach the club after the War.

Stuart Pankoff died on January 10, aged 93. His funeral took place in Ipswich on January 19. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Valerie (nee McNamara). They had three children - John, Margaret and Janet.

Pankoff - whose father, John was a Latvian immigrant who fought with the AIF on the Western Front - had played for Ipswich against Brisbane in 1949, and then for Ipswich against Britain in 1950, when he more than matched it with the fearsome Lions' pack, in a torrid 18-13 loss.

In 1951, Pankoff, an engineer, had time away from football to work in the shipyards in Brisbane, and in 1952 followed his father to Cairns, for work, resisting offers from local rugby league clubs in the Far North.

Pankoff returned to Ipswich in 1953, and represented the city against the touring American All Stars, making headlines for a fight with All Stars' skipper, Mike Dimitro.

The Ipswich Rugby League excluded Tivoli from the competition in 1954 - to avoid a bye - and the Tigers played in Lockyer Valley, beating Laidley in the grand final, at Forest Hill. But the club struggled for numbers, and the following year folded, as the Ipswich League refused to reverse its earlier decision.

Stu Pankoff at his Eastern Heights (Ipswich) home in 2017 with a photo of the Tivoli Tigers. Photo: supplied
Stu Pankoff at his Eastern Heights (Ipswich) home in 2017 with a photo of the Tivoli Tigers. Photo: supplied

Pankoff was broken hearted, and rather than play for someone else, retired.

"I wouldn't go near a football field, I was so disgusted by the decision to exclude us from the competition," he said, years later. "That was so cruel."

He continued to attend Tivoli reunions, with the Tigers' name living on at Ipswich Norths, the club that has had a long association with the renowned Langer family.

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