Wallaby Pilecki dies
Stan Pilecki, the son of Polish refugees to Australia, became one of the greats of Australian rugby.
He was three when his parents settled in Brisbane in 1950, and their son grew up to become an ardent Queenslander for the rest of his life.
After he left Marist Brothers College Rosalie, an inner city school, a keen rugby school, he joined Wests RFC in Brisbane at the age of 17 and eventually, tough prop, he retired from them when he was 41, later elected a life member of the club, their first player to play for Australia. When he was 23 he got his first cap for Queensland and became the first Queenslander to reach a hundred caps, retiring on 122 caps when he was 38.
He was 31 when first capped for Australia against Wales and 37 when he played his last, his 18th, Test in 1984, against the All Blacks.
Inevitably, being an Australian player, Pilecki had a nickname, which was simply The Pole. Many regarded him as one of the all-time toughest, outwardly casual and careless but on the field unyielding. Chris Handy, whose nickname is Buddha, was a contemporary prop in Queensland, also a Wallaby. Handy said: "Stan Pilecki is probably the toughest person I played with or against. His resilience is unbelievable. We will never see again someone who is hit or split and not bleed."
In 1972, Queensland were playing and Pilecki was on the bench, lying back puffing a cigarette. Chris Handy was injured and Pilecki was roused to go on in his place. Up he got and played really well.
On a tour of Argentina with the Wallabies he was on the bench when Mark Loane was injured. Bob Templeton told Pilecki to warm up and go on. Pilecki said: "Haven't time to warm up. Only half way through my smoke."
He was known to go on a team run and catch a taxi back. His warm-up routine was to stamp his feet a few times.
He probably would not have understood modern players with their diets, fitness, gyms, ice baths and training schedules.
He was 19 and picked for Queensland Under-19 but declined in order to get married. In that year, 1966, he was working on an oil rig when he had an awful fall. Medical opinion was that he would not play rugby again. He stopped playing 22 years later.
At Ballymore he was very much a crowd favourite.
Every year the Queensland Player of the Year receives the Pilecki Medal.
Stanislaus Josef Pilecki was born in a refugee camp in Augustdorf, northern Germany, a camp for people displaced by war or political oppression from countries like Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He died in the presence of his two daughters at home in the Brisbane suburb of Jindalee on 20 December 2017.
Rugby Australia president, Tony Shaw said: "We’ve lost one, if not the greatest characters of our sport.”
Classic Wallabies president, Simon Poidevin said: "Today Australian Rugby lost one of its great characters in Stan Pilecki.
"Stan was one of the most authentic rugby players the world has seen, universally loved by all those who had the privilege to play alongside him and feared by those who opposed him.
"In the heat of battle, it was always reassuring to know that Stan Pilecki had your back.
"Importantly Stan lived life to its fullest and I will never forget his surging run at age 37 to set up Steve Williams for a try against the Barbarians in the last game of the Wallabies' 1984 Grand Slam tour at Cardiff Arms Park."