Archive for the ‘General Mish-Mash’ Category

The Stars Are Half As Bright – A Final Note On A Full Life

In General Mish-Mash on October 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm

At 5:10pm on Wednesday 4th October the final breath was taken by my dad, Roger Cowan. A memorial service was held outdoors at Panthers, followed by a chance to share drinks and stories in, ironically*, The Ron Mulock OAM Room at the Panthers Events Centre.

(*If you don’t understand why this is ironic I recommend you try and get hold of a copy of Jenny Bentley’s Panthers Passion & Politics – The Roger Cowan Years.)

A big thank you to everyone who came along to the service, those sent us messages of condolence and support, and those who for a fleeting moment gave a thought to Roger.

A number of people asked for a copy of my eulogy. It’s too long to publish here but you can download a copy by clicking on the link below. There is also a link to Glenn Matthews’ message for Roger from Kona, Hawaii where he was competing in the Hawaiian Ironman 2017.

Download the Eulogy for Roger Cowan delivered by Max Cowan.

Download the Glenn Matthews Message about Roger Cowan from Kona Hawaii.

Scroll down for a video of 3 of the eulogies – it runs for 32 minutes.

Other information:

The Big Panther Has Gone But Will Never Be Forgotten – from prominent hospitality mover and shaker Jenny White of White Now!

Grace Funerals Tributes Page – read how others have paid tribute to Roger; leave a tribute of your own; you can even upload photos, videos, sound bites that may add to our memories.

Roger Cowan 2016

Roger in November 2016

Roger’s Birthday – a message of gratitude.

In General Mish-Mash on November 9, 2016 at 9:22 pm

The following email was sent today – Roger’s Birthday. I thought some of it may be of interest to those friends, colleagues and contacts who were not on the send list.

Hello friends and colleagues,

Just over a year ago the Industry banded together to hold a luncheon to pay Tribute to Roger & Phyllis Cowan (Roger & Mum to me).

Every day, without exception , I reflect on that event.

I silently sigh in relief and gratitude for the generosity and fellowship our industry nurtures for communities and, through that event, gifted to us. I know the rest of my family is reflecting with me.

Today (Nov 9th) is Roger’s birthday – he turns 81.

The Melbourne Cup has just been run – it was Melbourne Cup Day 2014 when he was first struck by stroke.

So, late October into early November is a significant period – highly charged with emotions that both plumb the depths and scale the heights.

That moment when Roger was wheeled into the Bankstown Sports Ballroom and everyone stood and applauded – it still echoes, trembles and touches.

So, it seems sensible to take this moment and send you some news on how things are going. To let you know what a remarkable difference your support has made in practical terms and in terms of the spirit of our family.

Firstly, there has been little change in Roger’s condition since the event in October last year. If anything there has been a slow decline in Roger’s motor and cognitive capability. In fact, Roger’s condition since his first stroke, 2 years ago, seems to have consistently followed an unfortunately downward trend.

More positively, he appears happy and comfortable. He is well looked after by the team at the nursing home. We have the fantastic Niki – principal therapist from Southern OT – providing private therapy sessions. These sessions are invaluable to his physical, emotional and mental well-being. (If you attended the tribute function you will remember it was Niki who enabled Roger’s make an appearance.)

Occasionally, we’ll take him out for lunch with a few old friends. He enjoys the banter and a beer or two – especially when there are some good storytellers in the party.

Mum is now back living in Penrith. The move showed just how much your environment affects both health and spirit. After going through what seemed a very dark period her characteristic spirit and buoyancy returned. The irrepressible Mum is back in town!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not easy – the challenges of being in your eighties, without your lifelong partner and fending on your own are not insignificant. But with the comfort of knowing Roger is well attended and his ongoing therapies are covered, Mum can get on enjoying the company and support of friends in familiar surroundings.

The bottom line is that without your help and support none of this would have been possible – financially or emotionally. I shudder to think what sort of state we’d be in. We were at our wit’s end when Rhonda started the process with a simple call … but from that moment we could see some light and felt comforted, safer.

Some extra news – Jennie Bentley contacted me a few months ago wanting to revisit the book she authored – Panthers, Passion and Politics: The Roger Cowan Years. We had been thinking pretty much on the same lines – it would be great to make this story more accessible. To do so means converting it to a digital format and this means some fairly substantial work.

Panthers Passion and Politics is such a good story on so many levels, I hope we are able to make it more widely available by turning it into an e-book and more accessible by refining the narrative. If you think this project warrants support contact me and I’ll let you know more about it.

This email has been sent to the people who instigated and drove the Roger & Phyllis Cowan Tribute Luncheon – Peter Turnbull (Leagues Club Association), Garrie Gibson (RSL Clubs), Chris Keeble (CMAA), Anne Fitzgerald (Clubs NSW), Bryn Miller, and the wonderful Rhonda Bowen who really lit the fuse in the first place.

I have also copied those who generously shared their experiences and perceptions of Roger and Mum – Barry Walsh, Glenn Matthews, Greg Alexander, Jackie Kelly, Renee Amor, Bryn Miller, Sue McNeill, Sandy Rosenthal, Rhonda Bowen, and Barrie Hubbard – the production companies that filmed those tributes (Casablanca Productions) and then edited and compiled them for the event (Page 2 Productions). I’ve also copied to the Men Of League.

There were many supporters, donors, & contributors – I hope you are able to pass this message on to anyone who was been part of the event or is likely to be interested.

I hope you don’t mind that I will also post online so it will be available to a wider groups of supporters, friends and contacts of Roger’s & Mum’s.

Cheers, love and hugs
Max on behalf of Roger, Mum, Stephen and Phil and the whole Cowan clan.

Roger Cowan 2016

Happy Birthday Roger

Something for the new year.

In General Mish-Mash on December 31, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Love After Love – Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

From the Roger & Phyllis Cowan Tribute Luncheon – Video Etc

In General Mish-Mash on November 1, 2015 at 8:50 am

Tax deductible donations to Roger & Phyllis Cowan Trust still being accepted until 9th November at Men Of League – Cowan Tribute.

On Friday 23rd October 2015, the major clubs’ associations in NSW banded together to hold a tribute and benefit function for my parents – Roger & Phyllis Cowan.

This united effort is something rare. Why did it happen?

  • To recognise and applaud their impact on and standing in the club industry.
  • To provide needed support to ease the long term damage on them after being singled out for political mistreatment.

At the luncheon I was required to introduce a video that we’d put together for the event. The introduction and the video appear below.

It is still possible to make a donation (tax deductible) to the Roger & Phyllis Cowan Trust, just go to the following link:

Men Of League – Cowan Tribute

This link will remain open until close of business on 9th November 2015 (Roger’s 80th birthday)

Following is the video introduction and the video:


Ladies & Gentleman, Colleagues, Friends, & Family

You’ve heard and seen some special tributes for Roger & Mum.

My job is to introduce another video – a more personal intimate look at Roger and Phyllis.

But really I am more here to pay personal tribute to you.

To offer you thanks on behalf of Roger & Mum and see if I can help you understand how you’ve touched and moved our entire family.

I can’t really do that without putting this moment into context. Like every event, this one has its own history.

On Melbourne Cup Day last year – so, just on a year ago – Roger had a stroke. It seemed mild and he had medical attention pretty quickly.

There were good reasons to be optimistic about a full recovery.

In fact it wasn’t long before he was doing what Roger does – pushing the exercising to the limit with long striding laps around the backyard and high rpms on the stationary cycle.

But he had a fall, another stroke – since then his condition has declined.

Naturally, this has had an impact on us all – and Mum in particular.

We have all pulled together – as most families would.

We all age, we are all subjected to infirmity as we age – it is universal. Everyone goes through it, every family has to face it.

What is not universal are the things that shape our entry into this period of our lives – the twilight as they say, or the 7th age of man as Shakespeare put it.

As Roger & Mum headed toward this stage, their trajectory promised a twilight of dignity & comfort. Their life – and ours too – had been great, it was great. It had been carved out by hard work, strong principles, vision, good humour, plenty of wine and some good luck.

A single event turned that trajectory upside down – cast us into a vortex … inescapable, heartbreaking, and shaking every branch and generation of our family.

I don’t think I need to go into detail but I will say this:

A 17th Century Cardinal – Richelieu – once said:

Give me 6 lines written by the most honest of men and I will find reason to hang him.

Ian Temby had a lot more than 6 lines to look at – he had volumes. Volumes and volumes. Covering more than 10 years of Roger’s professional and private life and Mum’s as well.

He also had sworn testimony from some who were intent on hanging Roger – and he had the support of the government and the media.

But Temby found nothing. Certainly nothing that could support hanging. The worst thing he found was an obsessive need for privacy about his salary.

But Roger had already been hung.

And so approaching their twilight – their 7th Age of Man – Mum & Roger were plunged into this vortex.

The trajectory had changed and everything was tipped up and tossed around.

Between that moment – more than a decade ago – and now, we had each other. We pooled our resources – our physical resources, emotional resources, financial resources – and we contained the impact as much as we could.

As an aside can I just say how lucky we are – that my brothers and I have partners  so strong, staunch and selfless. Right through this tumultuous time Chris, Lynn, and Karen – have given much more than you can imagine and we appreciate it much more than we ever show.

But try as we did we weren’t able to turn things around.

To me there is a clear, direct line between that event and us standing here today accepting, with great humility and enduring gratitude, your generosity and support.

Personally there are two memories that haunt me. They both pierce my mind often but especially when I visit Roger and look into his eyes and then up to a wall of photographs in his room.

The first is a moment in 2002 when during a Panthers presentation night one of the instigators of the game- changing event stumbled up to me, smiled and in a drunken slur said:

“I really like you, Max – it’s a shame what we have to do to your dad.”

I wish he could see what he and his compatriots did.

The second is Roger standing up at his last Panthers AGM and declaring:

“Those of you who have set out to hurt me have won. You have hurt me.”

So, we stand before you – still hurting.

But feeling the scars being soothed by your support, your generosity, your recognition of the contribution from both Roger & Phyllis and for the injuries they’ve sustained.

In fact, that soothing started with one very special person metaphorically and literally putting her arms around us and saying “Wait a minute, this can’t be right, we need to help”.

We shed some tears of relief.

And Rhonda Bowen went into action.

Quickly, the major industry associations – Leagues Clubs Australia, Clubs NSW, RSL & Services Clubs Association, and Club Managers Association – generously linked arms and put their shoulders to the wheel in support of Roger & Mum.

And so we have this moment of coming together in tribute and support of Roger and Phyllis.

Mention must be made some others:

Mark Condi, his Board and his team here at Bankstown Sports Club –who did not hesitate when asked to host this event. In fact, I think they said it would be an honour to do be the host venue.

All the suppliers, sponsors and donors – thank you.

Garrie Gibson, Peter Turnbull, Anne Fitzgerald, Bryn Miller, Chris Keeble & Rhonda Bowen who put this event together.

Can I just say Chris Keeble’s energy and passion seems limitless and she is very generous with both.

Casablanca Studios & Page 2 Productions who put together the audio visual material.

Of course Paul Martell and Brian Doyle – long time friends and supporters – what stalwarts they are.

And lastly Niki McDonagh from Southern OT whose therapeutic philosophies and practices have … well, she got Roger here today!! What a champion.

But most of all, and I can’t say it often enough, thanks to each and every one of you from each of us Cowans who are here today and those that aren’t

Please make sure you are in the guest book so future Cowans can also reflect on your importance to this moment in the family folklore.

We believe it is a moment is far more reflective of humanity and the real nature of our industry, than the events that have caused it to happen.

Right now here is a video that shows something of the Seven Ages Of Roger & Phyllis.

On Golden Point – An Idea For Big Rugby League Games

In General Mish-Mash on October 6, 2015 at 9:46 am

The Broncos and Cowboys delivered us a scintillating game in the NRL Grand Final. A dramatic 80th minute play. All you could ask for in a the last game of the season.

The singular downside: “golden point”.

The way the game was decided did not do the game, or the teams, justice. (Mind you, I did cheer loudly when JT kicked the point that was declared “golden”!)

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.09.02 am

While agreeing with Wayne Bennett that golden point turns a deadlock into a lottery, I can’t agree that replaying the game is a good solution. A replay – while probably fairer – just seems impractical to me but also something of an anti-climax.

The difficulty lies in finding a solution that is both practical and minimises the “toss-of-the-coin” feel.

Here is an idea that is something of a hybrid.

It sort of messes the principles of a defined extra time and golden point(s) with tennis’ need for 2 point advantage, baseball’s extra innings, and soccer’s equal access to goal shots in a penalty shootout.

This would only apply, in my opinion, to games that need a result. That is, State of Origin & NRL Finals Series Games.

The game is deadlocked and we move into the Golden Points Shootout.

1. Coin is tossed to determine who will attack and defend first.
2. 5 minute on-field rest period with coach.
Note: the coin toss and selection of attack/defend precedes the 5 minutes with the coach and llows both coaches to apply fix strategies for the shootout – and to make 2 final substitutions for the shootout.
3. Play starts from a set play – a scrum or tap restart – 40m out, 10m in from touch.
4. The attacking team has 6 tackles to score. They can have their tackle count restarted. (via the opposition playing at the ball, forcing a goal-line dropout, a penalty etc).
5. They keep playing while maintaining possession.
6. Once they score or lose possession (knock-on, concede a penalty, kicked the ball dead etc etc), the second shootout begins and the defenders become attackers, starting in the same way – 40m out, 10m in.
7. If possession changes in a way that the defending side can play on (without a restart – like a penalty, scrum or 25m tap) – they are allowed to play until the first time they are tackled or they score. (this allows for an intercept or long range try).
8. Both teams get an equal number of shootouts as the attacking team.


1. Field goals are allowed and valued at 1 point.
2. Penalty goals & conversions are reduced to 1 point each.
3. Tries are 4 points.

A team is declared when, after an equal number of “shootouts” have been played. it is a minimum of 2 points ahead.

Naturally the idea has some pitfalls and someone will point out why it can’t work. But maybe, just maybe it will spark a bright spark into finding the elusive answer.

The thinking behind this is:

  • it revolves around what is at the very heart of our game – attacking and defending the goal-line and
  • it offers both sides access to an equal number of attacking sets.

Your feedback is more than welcome.

A Very Proud Panther Who Respected The Past And Created The Future

In General Mish-Mash on July 6, 2015 at 8:10 pm

I have not written here for quite some time … I felt compelled to put this down for many reasons.

Leo Armstrong recently passed away. Leo’s service to our nation during WWII was more than distinguished. He flew 32 missions in the RAAF’ Bomber Command – including the very last mission of the Lancaster, “G for George”.

G for George with crew. Leo Armstrong 2nd from the left.

G for George with crew. Leo Armstrong 2nd from the left.

He embedded himself within the Penrith community in 1969, when he began managing the Penrith branch of the Commonwealth Bank. For the rest of the millennium and into the next, he continue to serve with great dignity and distinction – this time his service was to his community, the Penrith community and its citizens.

For Leo, sport was a central interest – whether as a participant or fan, he competed. So, he was really at home in the Penrith region which then, as now, boasted a vibrant sporting culture.

At the apex of this sporting region is the Penrith District Rugby League Football Club – which had been admitted to the elite Sydney competition, only 2 years before Leo arrived in Penrith. Leo’s passion for this fledgling club in the premium competition – the Penrith Panthers –  quickly took hold.

And he never held back in his support for the club and the team. He never left his “A” game in the sheds.

By 1980 Leo had been elected to the Board of Penrith Rugby League Club Ltd and, in 1984, became Chairman of the Board that unified the League Club and the Football Club.

This was a tumultuous period in the club’s history. In fact, Leo’s tenure as Chairman was littered with turmoil – merging Boards, controversial move to Mulgoa Rd, Super League, SL & ARL unification into NRL, NRL criteria & culling of teams, amalgamations, Board Wars …

And, through all this Leo kept a cool head and calmly navigated the organisation through very stormy weather … until he was caught from behind by a couple of snipers who were supposed to be on the same team.

Wounded badly, the reins were yanked from his grasp.

But some of Leo’s other qualities – perhaps his greatest qualities – his dignity, humanity, and humour meant that his stature remained untarnished.

Leo’s massive contribution to country, community and club is something for which we should all be grateful and proud – especially those associated with Panthers.

But …

At his funeral there was not a Panthers representative in sight – let alone attending to deliver an appropriate eulogy.

Yes, Panthers did provide the space, staff and catering for the wake – but even there not a Panthers official could be found. Mind you it was good to see a number of (ex) Panthers there offering their personal respect.

Then the Panthers organisation did not take the opportunity to mark Leo’s contribution to club, community and country on the event of their next home game. Admittedly this would have required a good deal of effort. But someone in the Panthers organisation should have either done the research and the work … or engaged someone who could do it.

You know, I reckon even those internal snipers that rolled Leo out of office in 2000 would have afforded Leo and his family the time, the effort and the respect that his contribution warrants.

I am astounded by this lack of attention – especially from the club that boldly proclaims:

“Respect the Past, Create the Future”

respect the past

Perhaps, a lesson could be derived from this – how about each member of the Panthers Board be asked to write a thousand words on the following essay topic.

Slogans may be written, they may be spoken, they may be shouted,  but it is only when they are lived that they hold any value. Discuss.

I’d love to see the response of the current Chairman who is ultimately responsible for this accidental or deliberate show of disrespect..

His response would be in marked contrast to the offering from the distinguished, thoughtful gentleman who held the Chair between 1984 and 2000 and who lived the values espoused by the proclamation. The same values that the current Chairman and his Board has rendered so hollow.

Ian Elliot – A Few Words For An Old Mate

In General Mish-Mash on March 31, 2015 at 1:54 pm

On February 26th one of my oldest friends made a decision to exit this life. We started school together, became friends, followed divergent paths, lost contact for many years and, thankfully, reconnected a few years ago.

His most recent and final life decision challenged and confronted me and many others. His absence leaves a big gap. It raises many deep questions. Sorrow lingers. And all those emotions we face signify the importance of Ian and our reunion.


The following words were spoken at the funeral service for Ian, held at the Nepean Rowing Club the banks of the Nepean River.

In 2012,  after years – even decades – of lost contact a few mates from Penrith Public School (Infants, Primary & High) met up at the Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills.

Instantly we were transported back in time and place.

We sat there telling stories, listening, interrupting, laughing, – hours passed. It seemed like only minutes.

Our coffees went cold.

It was as if we had never been apart.

Ian was the catalyst for our catching up – over 50 years since we’d started school together, more than 40 years since our last school days and probably more than 30 years since we’d last seen each other.

Here I must thank Merril Worrad who played a big hand in making it happen.

Yes, Ian was the catalyst – he was also much of the chemistry of our regular mini-reunions.

In fact, many times the rest of us – Bill, Paul & me – could hardly get a word in. Ian bounced from story to story. He took us on journeys that were often surprising and always entertaining.

Ian (red cap) with Bill, Paul & Me

Ian (red cap) with Bill, Paul & Me at lunch before a 2014 Tigers v Panthers game at Leichhardt Oval.


One moment we’d be re-living life in Mrs Frawley’s 3rd grade classroom and suddenly Ian would be telling us about a scuba diving adventure on the South Coast. Perhaps with a transitionary tale about nude swimming in the Nepean River.

Here we were sitting in Bourke St Surry Hills …

but we were actually living those moments in Penrith in that magic time of wide eyed innocence, when we were mischievous rascals playing brandings or cocky laura at lunchtime, or scoffing Cameron’s long cream buns (with extra cream), or creating the treehouse club in Cameron’s back yard.

Back then our eyes sparkled, our laughter rang loud.

And so it did on every one those days in Surry Hills over the last few years

We were kids together again.

It must have looked a bit like a scene from the movie Cocoon.

Ian often talked fondly about his time living in the garage at my parents place on the river at Emu Heights.

He loved it there and my family loved having him there.

In fact, Ian is a pretty legendary person in our family. Mum was devastated at hearing news of his passing. So were my brothers. Roger – who can hardly recall anything from those times or any of my schoolmates – was saddened. He said, in his understated way: “Oh no. Ian’s a really nice guy. I like him a lot.”

Ian must have made a big impression on him.

The story most repeated in our family is the one where Ian saves my youngest brother Phil from being crushed in the crowd at the gates of the Sydney Showground before the Led Zeppelin concert.

What a great weekend that was.

Even now, whenever I hear Zeppelin – and especially the Immigrant Song – I see Ian, taller than most of us, hoisting my distraught 8 year old brother onto his shoulders and out of harm’s way.

That concert was in 1972 – almost exactly 42 years ago – the date was February 27th.

Of course, some of Ian’s stories came from dark places. They could be heart-breaking in their sadness, infuriating for their injustices, and some contained sickening cruelty.

We found out things that were hidden – and probably unbearable – to the innocent eyes of school-children. Back then, we never knew that Ian had to bear the unbearable. We know now.

By the way – until the last couple of days – I had no inkling that Ian’s given name is Adrian. Adrian Curtis Elliot!! There’s always a surprise where Ian’s concerned.

Ian related his dark tales with passion and animation.

A different type of passion and animation than what he showed when he acted out events like the 5th grade classroom exchange between Bruce Turner and Mr Spence during a folk tune sing-a-along, where Mr Spence’s fly was down and Bruce was trying to let him know.

Or when he imitated me imitating an ape behind Mr Spence’s back … and getting caught.

Ian’s performances were something to behold – I think he should have been in the theatre.

As I said, the dark tales had their own compelling emotion. They were often tragic. But there was not a skerrik of self-pity in the telling. Yes there was sometimes anger, condemnation or frustration but never bitterness nor self-indulgence.

Listening to the way he told these stories I realised just what an amazing person Ian grew to be. How strong he was.

There seemed to be a conspiracy between fate, chance and Ian’s own choices that dealt him so much pain, anguish, cruelty, and punishment.

Yet he seemed to absorb it all, synthesise it and then give it back to the world totally transformed. What he absorbed re-entered the universe as a big heart, a caring nature, and a generous spirit.

Ian made the world better.

His beloved Chezzy was a great example of how Ian was able to transform things – saved from a harsh, uncaring, even cruel, owner; she was then treated with Ian’s care and love and became a loyal and loved friend to him.

I am grateful to have known Ian.

We had talked about a project of getting together with Ian and documenting his stories … I just wish we’d had the time to do that.

His stories help me stay enlivened, inspired, and optimistic. He spirited me back to a magic time.

His passion and animation teaches me that we carry those magic times with us wherever we go – they are always on call.

His generous spirit and caring heart are a lesson to me.

It is said that the universe is made up of stories, not atoms.

While people might pass, their stories can live on.

I hope Ian stories and especially the story of Ian continue to make up this universe for a long time yet.

Thanks Ian

My favourite day – thanks to you all.

In General Mish-Mash on July 27, 2014 at 12:39 am

This innocent, unpretentious, and easy-going exchange between Piglet and Pooh is possibly my favourite of all the wisdom that gets spun out on social media.

Pooh Fav Day

Naive and simple.

Albert Schweitzer’s words:
From naive simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity.

To read it, feel it, know it, smile at it is:
                         Starting from naive simplicity.
To live it is:
                         Arriving at profound simplicity.

If only the path of Pooh was so straightforward.
It’s not!

But …

Today is my favourite day.
It is!

Because today,
You spent a moment
On a thought for me.
In that moment
I lived.


Protected: The Ballad of the Coroner, the Cop and the Afrikaaner

In General Mish-Mash on January 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

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Protected: Lambo ‘n’ Billy ‘n’ Me

In General Mish-Mash on October 3, 2013 at 6:25 pm

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