Posts Tagged ‘Roger Cowan’

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

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.

Notes from an important moment – on family, leadership, love, dignity.

In General Mish-Mash on May 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm

In 2005 Roger Cowan (my father) retired from the position of CEO of Panthers (Penrith Rugby League Club Ltd) after 40 years.

A function was held in the EVAN Theatre at Panthers, Penrith. Speeches, tributes, and testimonials were given by a variety of people.

I was asked to speak on behalf of my brothers and our families. Following this introduction is the written version of my speech.

I have included this in my MishMash for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that it connects with another blog I have about childhood memories (365 Short Memories) – it connects but it doesn’t fit there. Yet, I wanted readers of some of those memories to have the opportunity to understand their significance  – in particular those memories relating to the Port Macquarie holiday that features in this speech.

Anyway, here is the speech I spoke on behalf of my brothers – as it was written, possibly not as it was spoken.


Somehow I always seem to get elected to say something on behalf of my brothers.

Tonight, I’m really not sure what I should be talking about …

I guess I could tell you a few anecdotes that simultaneously give you a laugh and highlight some of Roger’s Achille’s heels. The main one being:

–     naivety

Although our preferred term is –  stupidity.

Anyway I’m not gonna do that.

You’ll get a far bigger laugh and it’ll  be much more fun if sometime during the night you catch a few of us together and have those stories told in a more natural setting

– a setting that encourages a little more colour, and a lot more derision.

To help you out here’s some tips on topics that might be fun for you …

 * You could ask about the great canoeing adventure down the Shoalhaven River
* Or maybe request a description of Roger’s fabulous and innovative technique for underwater photography
* Or what about something as simple as the enormously difficult task of dropping the kids off to school
* Or How Shamu the Killer Whale joined Cowan folklore

 And this is a beauty – the tale of the car, the apple and the chicken coop – that one has gotta be told a few times tonight, I reckon.

There’s a vault full of stories that will bring a good laugh at Roger’s expense. So have fun with that.

From me, tonight – it’s a story of a different kind.

One night, not so long we  – the family – were having a few wines together.

I told them something I had told no-one about. It was a very personal and private memory about a very personal and private experience. A memory that has remained crystal clear with me for the best part of 40 years.

Here is the essence of what I related over those few glasses:

 I was walking alone along the breakwater at Port Macquarie, the sky was rich in colour, though cloudy, and the rays of the sun were like spotlights through the clouds. I was singing a song – who will buy this wonderful morning, such a sky I never did see …

 I was 7 years old, it was a family holiday – Roger, Mum, 3 boys (Phil you were just a glint in the eye at this point) in a small caravan next to the breakwater – and walking along that breakwater that more I had some sort of awakening, I felt as if I had been blessed with a deep insight into life.

 After describing this event in a bit more detail, Mum in her inimitable and direct fashion pipes in and says ….

 “Yeah! Well let me tell you that was no bloody holiday … WE WE’RE ON THE RUN!

We were flat broke, in debt over our heads – we couldn’t pay the mortgage on the house and if the creditors had have been able to catch us we would have lost the house.

We went to Port Macquarie so Roger could try and earn some extra money in the area selling encyclopedias door to door.

That shed some light on part of memory of that time:

Ah! So that’s why we played that game of searching for pennies under the back seat of the car??

Now, I tell you this not to reveal something about myself – my revelation was and is a very private thing

But I wanted to offer it to you in order to reveal something about Roger and Mum.

I mean … 4 boys under 8, severe financial stress, the threat of house repossession, searching for lost pennies so we can eat, desperately knocking on doors to earn a quid … and I come out of all this feeling that

on this best of all holidays, I have been somehow touched by God’s favour.

No coincidence.

Here we had 2 young people with nothing to share but each other and the love of their children – great things to share

But even with that many families are torn asunder and individuals scarred badly after encountering lesser problems.

There was an extra ingredient that formed a strong amalgam with the sharing and the love.

It is an ingredient that has allowed all in our family to be their own person, to develop in their own way.

It is an ingredient that enabled my brother Pete to comfortably and happily live at the edge of society from a young age.

It is an ingredient that gave us all solace in the face of Pete’s death – and gave us great reason to celebrate and have pride in his life.

It is the ingredient that allows my brothers and I to carry our love for each other constantly in our hearts – there is never a need to be demonstrative or expressive about it …we simply know it to be there.

It is this ingredient that projects Roger above being a good leader … to being a great leader.

It may in fact be the ingredient that defines great leadership.

Too often we look to call people leaders because of the results they achieve … but it is the chosen journey and the way it is traversed that really stamps the leader.

And an exceptional leader ensures that every single step on that journey is taken in a way that protects and enhances human dignity.

That is the ingredient.

It is the greatest legacy of Roger’s work life here at Panthers – it needs to be continued, protected and nurtured.

And for my 3 brothers and I,  our partners and our families it is this quality – paradoxically both fragile & resilient – that we hope to embrace with the same intensity and integrity as Roger and Mum … and we strive to pass on to our future family members (and anyone else, for that matter).

It is for this gift we offer you both – Roger and Mum – our gratitude – for you have made our world a seriously special place.