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Sunday Age

In the name of the son

Author: Steve Strevens
Date: 01/09/2002
Words: 1050
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Sport
Page: 10
Bob Rose's love for his late son, Robert, and football, inspired him to set up a worthy foundation. Steve Strevens reports.

QUEUES are building outside the MCG, but high in the Great Southern Stand the president's lunch is in full swing. Eddie's there, as is Western Bulldog leader David Smorgon, as well as other personalities and powerbrokers from both clubs.

Discussion at the tables varies from the resignation of Bulldog coach Terry Wallace to the Magpies' chances of victory in the finals.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stadium, a smaller luncheon is taking place. The talk here, while similar to that across the ground, at times is very different. It's about two footballers cut down in their prime.

While the lunch in the Ryder Room is to raise money for the Magpies, this one is to raise money for the Robert Rose Foundation and is hosted by Collingwood legend and Robert's father, Bob.

Robert Rose became a quadriplegic as a result of a car accident on Valentine's Day in 1974. A cricketer on the verge of playing for Australia, Robert was also a footballer at Collingwood when his father coached the Magpies.

When Bob left Collingwood to coach Footscray, Robert followed him. A short time later the accident occurred.

Even though Bob is a Collingwood man, Footscray holds a special place in his heart. He offered to resign as coach when Robert had his accident but the Dogs would not listen.

Then, in the second game of the 1975 season against Fitzroy, one of his players, Neil Sachse, was injured in a tackle. For the second time in 14 months, Bob was spending time at the Austin Hospital, seeing the torment of other families.

After Robert passed away in 1999, Bob was approached to help the Para-Quadriplegic Association, but he declined. It was only two months after his son had died and emotions were too raw, too close.

But it was not long before he knew he had to help. The more he thought about all the injured people he had seen in the various wards, the harder the plea for help became to ignore.

"How could I say no," says Bob, ``after all, perhaps the Rose name could help others through the same suffering we'd had."

From that began the Robert Rose Foundation and through that the Robert Rose Cup, which is played between Collingwood and the Bulldogs, this year for the third time.

In the upper delegates' room, Bob welcomes his guests before heading over to the president's lunch where Eddie introduces him to the assembled throng. Eddie also introduces Heloise Waislitz of the Pratt Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Pratt Company, who presents Bob with a donation of $233,000 for the foundation to use for the counselling of quadriplegics.

Bob responds emotionally and when he finishes the applause is long and heartfelt. He is then whisked away to circle the ground in a car while the fans of both teams stand and cheer.

He acknowledges the acclamation but worries that some may think he is the reason for everyone being there.

"This is about Robert and the foundation," he says. ``Not me."

As soon as his duties are completed, he returns to his small group, away from the limelight.

Collingwood football operations manager, Neil Balme, a close mate of Robert, says that although most of the present players were not born when Robert had the accident, the Rose family story is one of huge inspiration to the whole club. ``They are very special people to Collingwood and this is a very special day."

The Bulldogs also remember those days. John Schultz, the 1960 Brownlow medallist, says the Rose family is held in the highest regard at Footscray. He remarks that Bob's dignity at a time of incredible pressure was something people still talk about.

"Even though he had enormous troubles of his own," says Schultz. ``Bob was always very aware of how Neil was progressing."

The lunch is finished when Collingwood breaks the banner. The players run through a special guard of honour comprising one of their supporters groups, ``the Wheelies", a group of disabled people who attend matches in their wheelchairs.

During the game, Bob does not barrack. He never has. He simply studies the game as he did when he coached.

"You can't get too emotional about it," he said, ``whether you're up or down, you never know when things are going to change."

That is a sound sentiment as, after being almost three goals up 10 minutes into the third quarter, Collingwood falls away.

After the game Bob, still smiling, presents the Robert Rose Cup to Bulldog skipper Chris Grant.

Whatever the result may have been, he has a part of his heart in each camp and besides that, he knows life is full of more important things than football.

The day has been a huge success and when asked what Robert would think about it all, Bob is silent for a moment, his eyes clouded.

Then he smiles. "Proud," he replied, "very proud."

Putting a priority on counselling

Although the Robert Rose Foundation has many members, it is something of a family affair. Peter, Robert's brother, is chairman and his daughter, Salli, is a board member along with her grandfather, Bob.

The foundation, although administered under the auspices of the Para Quad Association, is its own entity. It has its own agenda, its own mission statement and decides where any money that is raised goes.

Its aim is to help anyone with spinal cord injuries; to assist people to return to the workforce in some way and, in a move that would please Robert, to encourage any sporting activities they may wish to undertake.

Another priority is counselling.

At the time of Robert's accident, there was no counselling available for either him or his family.

Twenty-five years later there is little more. Just one counsellor in Victoria who specialises in helping quadriplegics, and only one more in the whole of Australia.

Funds for the foundation are raised in several ways, although mainly through sponsorships. Another way is by special events such as the luncheon.

The Robert Rose Foundation can be contacted on 9415 1200.

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