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Top competitor

Friday, 23rd February, 2018

Robert Schofield in action on the golf course. Robert Schofield in action on the golf course.

By Tyler Hannigan

Last week saw the sad passing of Robert Schofield, a man who excelled in multiple sports and left an incredible mark on the Broken Hill community.

Schofield, who was born in Western Australia and grew up in Inverell to parents Bob and Mary, arrived in Broken Hill in 1988 to teach mathematics at Broken Hill High School. He was a gifted and astute teacher but it was on the sporting field where he truly thrived. 

Some of Schofield’s sporting achievements included playing for both West and South in A Grade cricket and he also captained South for a number of years, becoming a single-figure handicap golfer and being the best tennis player to grace Broken Hill with 25 consecutive men’s open singles championships.  

When Schofield first moved to town, he contacted Peter Keenan who had just taken over as the Broken Hill Tennis Association president and Keenan said he had a fair idea of how good Schofield was even before getting on the court.

“Most people that come to town (and are interested in tennis) get my name and ring me up asking to play,” Keenan said.

“So I’ll ask them a few questions like have you played before, where have you played, what sort of player are you, things like that. 

“When I did that with ‘Schoie’ (Schofield) he said that he’d just come from Newcastle where he played A Grade and had won a couple of tournaments and he’d also been hitting with Peter Doohan who at that time was practising with the Davis Cup squad.

“So I thought well if he (Schofield) is hitting up with Peter Doohan then he must be pretty good and just invited him along to play in the comp.”

Schofield was rarely beaten, in singles or doubles, in competition play and was unbeaten in the open championship singles, winning 25 straight titles, and won two doubles titles in a Broken Hill tournament that attracted the best tennis players from South Australia. 

He also won over 40 mixed and men’s doubles titles, many of his mixed wins coming alongside wife Louise.

The pair met at indoor cricket and a mutual love for sport drew them together. Robert and Louise had four children together; Daniel (dec), Hannah, Emily and Nick.

While Schofield was a brilliant tennis player, he also loved cricket and was a fanatical thinker about the game. He started his career at West Broken Hill but went in search of A Grade cricket and found it over the hill.

Schofield joined the South Broken Hill Cricket Club in the mid 1990’s and later captained the side. Schofield was a fantastic leg spin bowler and enjoyed his batting despite his limitations. His favoured, some would say only, shot was the late cut through gully.

He played alongside Peter Johnston who said that Schofield’s competitiveness was a big factor in his switch to South.

“He (Schofield) was playing a lot of B Grade for West,” Johnston said.

“I think Rob saw the opportunity to play A Grade at South as the frontline spinner. He was a very competitive guy, very fair, but he played hard.

“He was a great club man and brought a competitive edge to South. We could do with a few more Robert Schofield’s now.

“I was lucky enough to play in a premiership side with him. ‘Schoie’ was a great teammate, he set a terrific example and they’re the type of guys that you need around a cricket club to be successful.”

The competitiveness flowed into his golf where Schofield’s rounds became less about the scoring and more about the side bets according to close friend and golfing partner Rob Devoy.

“He was very competitive, within himself, with every shot he played,” Devoy said.

“He might have been even more focused on the side bets than the actual scores. It appeared as though he needed that stimulation and that goes to show the competitiveness of the man but he was fantastic to play with.

“When I first joined, ‘Schoie’ took it upon himself to teach me not only the rules of golf but also the etiquette,” Devoy added.

“Although our rounds rarely took place in the morning as it was well known that ‘Schoie’ was not a morning person.”

Schofield wasn’t your conventional golfer but it made him no less effective. He held a handicap as low as six and once parred the course all while not being able to chip. Schofield would famously draw the putter from as far as 50 metres out from the green if he had a clear run to the hole.

Despite Robert being unable to play in the last few years, there was still a Schofield presence on the golf course with Devoy.

“It was a very interesting twist in a way because I was still in contact with Schofields for golf but it was his wife Louise and son Nick,” Devoy said.

“Instead of the texting between myself and ‘Schoie’ it was between me and Louise setting up a round for a Sunday.”

On top of his sport, Schofield was a passionate teacher and particularly to those who were driven to learn.

“He was a phenomenal teacher,” Devoy said.

“Especially with the kids that really wanted to learn, he gave them as much time as they wanted. He was very capable in the classroom, very dedicated and was ultimately there for the kids.”

His teaching extended to sport where he coached the high school cricket team for many years and also coached a number of junior tennis players.

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