"I don’t know what I’ve taken on here, but I’m determined to see it through to the end with the production and publication of a book on Richmond’s proud history as a rugby league club.” Darryl Cooper
by Greg Martin
During his 75 years in this place, Darryl Cooper has enjoyed being in any number of places.
In front of his television watching programs set in America’s Wild Wild West, sitting out on the patio, reading – yep, western novels and magazines and playing rugby league at Richmond Park.
Darryl, as are many other folk interviewed for this column, has never been afraid of the hard yakka.
Down the years since leaving Casino High School with his Intermediate Certificate in 1962, Darryl has cleaned out vats in a butter factory, delivered telegrams and newspapers, performed various tasks for Australia Post (nee Post Master General) and worked door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners.
And that hard yakka ethos extended to the football field where he never went out to do battle without having ensured his body was at peak fitness.
I’ve known Dazzlin’ Darryl for more than half a century – in fact I tagged with his the nickname in 1970 because he always impressed me with his scything tackles, blistering pace and ability to plant the pill over the tryline.
Darryl played the majority of his career with the sadly-departed Richmond Junior Rugby League Football Club which campaigned in the Sydney Western Districts, Parramatta JRL (1946-66) competitions and in the Penrith JRL from ‘67 until the club disbanded in 1985.
Darryl loves his footy and has an abiding passion for Richmond, so much in fact, he has has commenced researching information and hunting down photos as he begins the arduous task of compiling a history of his beloved Richmond JRLFC.
“I don’t know what I’ve taken on here,” Darryl laughed as he showed me just a fraction of the multitude of the paraphernalia he has already rounded up.
“But I’m determined to see it through to the end with the production and publication of a book on Richmond’s proud history as a rugby league club.”
Darryl has always been in contact with Richmond legend, tough-as-teak player and wily coach, Rod Payne, and the two old friends have come up with a title for the book.
“Rod suggested ‘The Forgotten Club’ because it is 36 years since Richmond’s demise and many younger and newer members of our community wouldn’t know about the club’s proud history,” Darryl explained.
Darryl is investigating when Richmond RLFC was first formed but a bit of research by this sleuth reveals that the club was playing games against arch-rivals, Windsor and Riverstone in 1914.
Down the decades since, torrid matches between the three teams always attracted huge crowds – well in excess of 2000 – to Richmond Park, McQuade Oval and Riverstone Park.
“Each of the three teams always seemed to lift their passions and intensity in these clashes, so little wonder the grounds were always jam-packed with supporters,” Darryl said.
Darryl commenced playing for Richmond in 1965 after the PMG transferred him from bush assignments on the North Coast, North West and Newcastle regions to Windsor Post Office.
“I had a run or two in the seconds – scored two tries in the first match – but every game since for Richmond was in first grade,” Darryl proudly exclaimed.
He played through until 1983, with just a three-season break in 1974-75-76 when he linked with Windsor when they successfully campaigned in the Metropolitan Cup, the second-tier competition in NSW.
During his time with Richmond, he picked up premierships in 1967 (undefeated), 1970 and 1973 and also posted a swag of tries, including a six-bagger against Warragamba.
Darryl and I worked out that he played “around 270 games” and scored “about the same number of tries”.
I had to ask Darryl whom he most admired as team-mates.
“You’re putting me on the spot because I was privileged to have played alongside some terrific footballers,” he replied.
“Lemme give it some thought!”
A couple of days later I told him to ’fess up.
Those players he mentioned were twins John and Mal McMartin who went on to successful careers in Sydney First Grade, John Porter, Rod Payne, Alan Knott, Jim, Geoff and Max Moffitt, Brian Doyle and Col Lucas.
“If I cop a bit of flack from other old team-mates, I know where you live,” Darryl joked (I think).
Darryl also played in Penrith’s first Presidents Cup side in 1967 as well as making infrequent appearances for the Panthers in thirds and seconds over the next few years.
Such was his speed, Darryl also ran on the popular Professional Sprint circuit where he matched strides with a number of well known league speedsters including Dave Irvine, John McDonald and Ken Gentle.
Darryl was a great servant to Richmond JRLFC Club and after serving as its president in 1980 was awarded a coveted life membership.
He was also a handy enough cricketer and played lower grades in the Hawkesbury and when Hawkesbury entered the Sydney Grade Cricket competition 1985-86, as an accredited Australian Sports Medicine Association sports trainer, he put the fitness polish on the club’s players.
Darryl Cooper was born in Casino on March 5, 1946 but spent his formative years in Tenterfield where his father worked for his father in the building game.
“We returned to Casino in 1954 when dad got a job as a carpenter on the railway and I finished my primary and secondary schooling after which dad got me a job at the Butter Factory cleaning out the giant vats,” he said.
“I absolutely hated it and after a few months I went home one day for lunch and refused to go back – copping a hiding from my embarrassed father in the process.”
He was immediately back in harness after topping a maths exam and beating 25 applicants to snare a job as a Casino PO telegram-delivery boy and then as a postie.
“My boss recommended for spot in the Postal Clerk Training School at Strathfield so I was off to Sydney in September, 1964 for the six months course.
After short stints working in the north of the state, Darryl was posted to Windsor PO in April, ‘65 where he remained for 18 years before taking up a roving relief worker role out of Parramatta Controlling PO.
Because of his sporting activities, Darryl says he was overlooked for higher promotion so he quit the postal service in 1992 and over the next 11 years trudged around the streets of Sydney selling Electrolux Vacuum cleaners.
His friendly demeanour and sales pitch ensured he sold plenty of vacuum cleaners, earning him a promotion to sales supervisor and two overseas holidays.
Darryl quit Electrolux in 2003 and from then until his retirement in 2017, working for South Windsor Newsagency, delivering the morning newspapers over South Windsor, Bligh Park and Windsor Downs.
Darryl’s first marriage produced a beautiful daughter, Leonie, and in turn, a strapping grandson, Tyler, now 16 and a very talented golfer who plays off a 1.5 handicap.
He and his second wife, Katrina Coutis, tied the knot on November 2, 1996 – Katrina still loves him despite him forgetting their 25th wedding anniversary!
They are both avid readers – Katrina enjoys novels “of any variety”, but Darryl, who like many of the Baby Boomer generation was raised on American TV westerns, has an abiding passion for western novels, movies and television series.
“You are of my generation, you know how we were indoctrinated into the genre,” he said to me.
Sure do pardner!
Main picture: Richmond Park and its football field hold fond memories for Darryl Cooper and his wife, Katrina. Darryl played umpteen games there for Richmond JRLFC, while Katrina witnessed him in action as well as her brother, Con Coutis, who was also a successful coach. Photo Kathryn Johnston.