Vale Tony Fearnside

27 May 2020

It is with great sorrow that I pass on that Tony Fearnside died on 18 April following a long struggle with Parkinsons Disease.  Tony was well known in the club as Filthy.

As we are all caught up with the restrictions associated with Covid-19 the funeral will be restricted to family only which is a great pity for Tony was worthy of a large funeral . For that reason I have decided to provide below some information to remind us all of what a contributor he was.

From a Norths perspective Tony was a significant figure in the Club at various times  in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and again in the 1980’s. He started playing in 1966.  An important  memory I personally have of him was when he was my team captain in John Madden’s Second Grade Premiership team of 1969. As always Tony was an island of calm in the heat of battle and it was fitting that he led a team which can be claimed to have led the world for we were among the first if not the first team to have the hooker (rather than the wingers) throw the ball into the lineout (a big tick to John Madden for pursuing this option).

Then Tony migrated to the coaching ranks for in 1971 and 1972 he coached the Fourths to  Grand Finals in both years with a Premiership in 1972. It was around this time that Tony also took on the organization of a series of Club Rugby tours which my records show as including:

1970 – Adelaide

1971 – Northern NSW and Brisbane

1972 – Bendigo

1973 – Newcastle/ Hunter Valley

These tours were great experiences and the stories from them still have currency to this day amongst the participants.

In 1974 Tony then commenced the first of his two extended periods working on Forestry projects in Nepal. He returned in 1981 to become Director of Forestry in the ACT. At this time he also re-emerged on Norths radar. He participated in the Canberra Evergreens team at the 1983 Golden Oldies festival in Sydney and was so enthused that he took on the chief organisers role for the Evergreens participation in the 1985 London Festival. Alas he was unable to make that trip for at the last minute he was offered an FAO Forestry position in Rome.  Perhaps this was for the best for the rest of us because, before he stepped down from the trip to London at that last minute,  he was talking of putting in a bid for Canberra to host a forthcoming Festival ( If anyone to bring this off would have been unthinkable for anyone but Tony for he was of one of the few who could actually make such things happen).

On his return again to Canberra from Rome in 1988 his Rugby days had effectively passed. He retired from the ACT Public Service  in 1989 to become a busy consultant forester both in Australia and overseas. He  retired from his consulting practice in 2012.

Tony led a busy life outside his Rugby. So much so that he was awarded an OAM in 2015 for services to the Canberra community. I have been unable to dredge up a list of community bodies that Tony was apparently involved in during  his later years  but knowing him it would have been extensive.  A quick look at the results of a simple www search for “Tony Fearnside”  gives an indication of his interests. Those of you with an interest in matters Forestry may like to do a www search  for the Book “Forest Capital: Canberra Forest and Forestry Workers Tell their Stories” and look at pages 288-336 for a record of an interview with Tony.

Tony was a highly respected figure in the Norths Club in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and later in the early 1980’s being the premiership winning coach of the mighty 4ths in 1972  and organiser of several very successful and memorable club tours within Australia (noting also that Tony had earlier played for ANU Forestry before joining Norths).

The strength of sentiment expressed amongst old Northies about his death was enough to prompt Wallaby Brad Girvan to comment: Sorry to hear of Tony’s passing and my condolences to all of you who knew him, so obviously well and clearly so fondly.  In reading many of the comments made, the club was built around blokes like Tony (the picture of the SA touring team has many names that I know I was lucky to be associated with in my time with Norths)..Many of us were fortunate to be wrapped in the spirit & culture that was built for us to be part of. Thank you for that..

I know I shall regard him as one of the important role models I met up with in my days involved with Norths. I for one will be raising a toast  to his memory.

Vale Tony

(Written by Ross Walker)

Mr Anthony Fearnside OAM – ANU :

A huge number of comments were received following this news and here are just a few of them.

Tony to me epitomised all that was good about Rugby. It was more than just a game: on and off field deeds combined to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts . We’ll miss you, Filthy.

I clearly recall Tony from those days. Solid, a gentleman and quietly reassuring especially for a young fool like me running too hard. Full respect

How lucky we were to gather particularly with champions like this bloke Filthy

He was a a really great chap. Always the gentleman. Will always remember the trip to Newcastle in 1973. Firm friends made and a new nickname for me.

How did Filthy come about? I’ve held off this note in the hope there’d be a claimant with a great tale to back it up  but, alas, that was not forthcoming. The truth is quite boring. Filthy came about simply because the alliteration appealed to me  (and you must admit it does roll easily off the tongue).

I remember when I first came to Norths in 1969 that here was this gentle giant with a red beard who spoke so quietly and yet was someone who everyone listened to.


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