Well known Narrandera sporting icon Ian Matthew, late of 21 Flood Street, Narrandera passed away suddenly at the age of 56 years on the night of October 16.
Bulldog was one of the first people I met when I came to work in Narrandera as a journalist at the Narrandera Argus. Whenever I would write a quote from him, I would diligently type out “Mr Ian Matthew” even when he asked me to call him Bulldog.
“Everyone knows me as Bulldog, don’t worry about putting Ian. No one will know who it is otherwise,” he would say. I suppose I had better let him have the last word.
Known to the community as Bulldog, he had lived in Narrandera for all of his life and raised his three sons Jason, Greg and Steven with his partner Kerry. A talented athlete in his youth, Bulldog played for both the Lizards and the Eagles and was particularly proud of playing during a season where both teams took home a premiership.
Phrases like “pillar of the community” are often thrown around with abandon, but Bulldog was a man who deserved those accolades.
Bulldog was best known for his work with the Narrandera Lizards. He began coaching the Junior Lizards as a young man and he formed a partnership with the club that would last the rest of his life. He fundraised tirelessly, organised sponsorship for new guernseys and created opportunities for the Lizards everywhere he could. After a trip to take photos of a new set of guernseys for the Lizards, he told me that people had asked if he had shares in the Argus.
But he was proud of the Lizards and I believe he wanted the town to be proud of them too. In this year alone, Bulldog organised for former Parramatta Eel player Dennis Moran to come to Narrandera Public School to run a training session for the students there. Also, after a lot of wrangling with the NRL, Bulldog was able to organise a trip to Penrith to see the Penrith Warriors, the Penrith Club’s indigenous side, play. They also got to meet the side after the game and, according to Bulldog, every kid got an autograph. Bulldog explained later that it was important for so many indigenous kids to see an all-indigenous side play.
Bulldog was delighted to be able to give Narrandera kids the chance to see a football game and to meet their heroes. As a person who truly cared about his community, Bulldog was keen for Narrandera kids to have the same kind of opportunities as their city counterparts, even if that meant having to explain to the upper management of the NRL exactly where Narrandera was.
Nearly every child in Narrandera called him ‘Uncle Bulldog’. If a kid didn’t have the means to get to footy training, Bulldog would take them. If a kid showed up to a day of footy without lunch, then Bulldog would feed them. For a lot of people, Uncle Bulldog as a steady and constant presence in their lives.
Bulldog also did a lot of work with Narrandera’s indigenous community. He worked alongside local Aboriginal organisations and the incomparable Michael Lyons to support kids in the community. When Wes Patten came to Narrandera to propose the Clean Slate Without Prejudice program, Bulldog was there to listen. He understood Koori culture, and it showed; when he visited Penrith with the Lizards, he presented the club with three of Mr Lyons’ beautiful hand-made didgeridoos.
He didn’t limit his energies to the Lizards. Bulldog was always someone who would lend a hand. If raffle tickets need to be sold, or a barbecue needed to be manned, Bulldog was there. He volunteered at the Lake Talbot Pool, sometimes sneaking in a few coins for kids who didn’t have the money to go on the slide. He supported causes for breast cancer, brain cancer, golf fundraisers and the rodeo, to name a few.
Not only was he a man who was happy to put up his hand and help out, Bulldog was a man who genuinely cared about people. He frequently visited the hospital; he made the rounds among people in the town. Single parents have shared anecdotes of weekly meetings with Bulldog for a cuppa and a chat; the friendly chat would often turn into an afternoon of helping out with any odd-jobs around the house.
Bulldog will be sadly missed by so many people in the town. Our community is a little poorer for his passing. His funeral will be held at St Mel’s Catholic Church on October 30 at 10.30am. His family have asked for attendees to dress casually, or to wear a football jumper.