We lost a good one this week, not unexpectedly it must be said, given his lengthy battle with lung cancer, but a very sad occasion, all the same.
“Doubles Daley” – I must have known him for 10 years before I found out his name was Peter. “Doubles” suited him far better – he was given the nickname early, and grew into it, a little like “Rupert” McCall, another local Brisbane rugby identity. How many would know Rupert’s real name was Jason? No wonder he changed it.
Doubles earned his nickname on account of his relentless fundraising endeavours, initially as a schoolboy at St Laurence’s College, then more prolifically at Souths Rugby Club.
Every weekend in winter, he’d stand at the gates of Ballymore, or on the sideline at Chipsy Wood Oval and flog “doubles tickets” – if you had the ticket with the jersey number of the first two try scorers in the main match – Bingo! The prize pool was yours.
Buying a ticket from Doubles was the easy bit. Getting away from him was next to impossible. Crikey, he could talk. With most chatterboxes, there’s an occasional pause, a logical opening where you can make a dash for it. “Well mate, better get going, good to see you”.
Not Doubles. He never stopped talking, even to draw breath. An old rugby mate told me of the time he was playing golf by himself on a Sunday afternoon. Somewhat reluctantly, he fielded a call from Doubles moments after putting out on the third. He couldn’t get him off the phone until half way down the 9th fairway. Doubles was that sort of bloke – the most loveable, genuine, persistent pain in the arse that God ever put breath into.
A few years ago, he was invited to be the guest on a local sporting podcast, to talk about his long and colourful career as rugby’s most passionate and dedicated volunteer, a contribution which ultimately earned him an AOM. I understand the hosts at one point were contemplating cutting up the interview into a four part series. Yep, when Doubles got on a roll, there was no stopping him.
“I remember once telling Doubles that my house was burning down and Jack The Ripper was inside with the kids,” former Wallaby skipper and Magpie great Andrew Slack laughed. “It was still three hours before I managed to get him off the phone!”
A fun fact – Doubles, on account of his problematic vision, only ever played one game of rugby in his life, kitting up for his beloved Souths Magpies in a 5th grade match against University in his mid 20s. His only recorded on-field pass landed straight in the bread basket of a Uni opponent who strolled effortlessly to the try line.
There are a couple of versions as to what happened next – either Doubles voluntarily removed himself from the contest or his teammates sent him off – more likely the latter. In any case, that was it – the boots went in the cupboard, and Doubles went back to doing what Doubles did best – harassing people for money.
It’s impossible to overstate his value to the Souths club, or the admiration he generated on account of his dedication and spirit of generosity.
Over the course of 45-plus years, there was no task, large or small, that he didn’t perform in and around the “magpie nest” at Annerley. He washed, he cooked, he cleaned, he put out, he put away, he mended, he organised, he picked up, he dropped off, he billeted players – all with that ever-ready smile on his moon-shaped dial. Doubles just loved being involved – rugby was his game, and rugby people were his tribe.
There’s the famous story of Doubles in the early 2000s, getting on a bus to Moree at 3 o’clock in the morning, to visit a tall NSW country kid, who apparently had a bit of talent. Perhaps he’s like to come up to Brisbane and have a run for Souths?
Having overcome the shock of a total stranger rapping on his door at 6.30am, Van Humphries did eventually join the club, in fact finished up playing plenty of games for Queensland. All because of Doubles. If it was in Souths’ best interest, it was no trouble.
In the late 1980s’ Doubles was also instrumental in ushering prodigal centre pairing Tim Horan and Jason Little into the club. There’s the wonderful (true) tale of boisterous teenager Horan drinking XXXX on the club house roof, as the Colts’ Grand Final celebrations entered their 10th hour.
By 9pm, Doubles had had enough of the loutish behaviour. “WHOEVER’S ON THE ROOF GET DOWN IMMEDIATELY OR YOU’LL BE KICKED OUT OF THE CLUB AND BANNED FOR LIFE,” he yelled indignantly.
Seconds later, a grinning Horan poked his head over the guttering, and peered down at Doubles, his coke-bottle glasses fogged up with fury.
“Oh….um.. Tim… I didn’t realise it was you. Be careful up there. It’s quite steep you know. You right for beer? Can I pass up a coupla cans?”
Like all good club men, Doubles knew the game all too well – there were rules for some and very different rules for budding superstars.
Andrew Slack again: “Every recreational or sporting club has an individual whose sole purpose in life seems to be to ensure that courtesy of their hard work and passion, the heart of the club keeps beating. To that end, if there was ever a patron saint of rugby club stalwarts, it could only be ‘St Doubles’. And in truth, he’d love a canonisation!”
The Souths rugby fraternity breathed a collective sign of relief in the early 90s when Doubles finally married Karen, his long suffering girlfriend. Thank goodness – at last the man had a dual focus, something to distract him, they thought. Surely now his obsession with Souths Rugby Club would wane?
To the contrary. Doubles dragged Karen (and all in good time, their daughter Danielle) into the magpie nest, the black and white fold. They became almost as passionate as him.
Sadly in 2012, Karen died prematurely from cancer, the same disease that last Sunday night claimed the life of her beloved husband.
He fought a hell of a fight. When he was first diagnosed in 2018, his specialist gave Doubles two years to live. He lasted almost six.
Yes, anybody who knew Doubles knew that he could be hard to shed.
The most loveable, genuine, persistent pain in the arse that God ever put breath into. A magpie man through and through.
Rest in Peace, old mate. You did good.
• Peter “Doubles” Daley’s funeral service will be held at St Laurence’s College, South Brisbane at 10am on Monday, December 4. There’ll be a celebration of his life afterwards at the Souths Rugby Club, Annerley.