In 1965 Tim Pickup’s family moved to Sydney’s northern beaches from the western suburbs where Pickup had been playing rugby league for Enfield Federals.
Such were the rules on residency, Pickup wasn’t allowed to play for the Federals if he was living out of the district.
There was also the fact that Western Suburbs Magpies, for whom Pickup had played junior reps, would not grant the transfer so that he could play for a league team other than Western Suburbs Magpies – and certainly not if that meant the bloody Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
League’s loss was Manly Marlins’ (nee Blues) gain when 17-year-old Pickup slotted straight into the first grade five-eighth jumper despite never having played rugby union.
Pickup would play three years at Manly and never miss a game, eventually piloting the side to the 1968 grand final which Manly lost 23-6 to Sydney University.
Yet despite starring in a team containing Tony “Slaggy” Miller and dual international Steve Knight, Pickup couldn’t win a jumper for Sydney or NSW, a situation he reckoned was down to bias against his rugby league heritage.
So off he took for a working holiday to London. There he played rugby union for Hackney, married his Aussie wife Jan and overstayed his British visa which resulted in a trip to New York where he busked at Greenwich Village and attended the famous Woodstock music festival.
Back in east London he was spotted playing touch in a park by a St Helen’s league scout and invited to trial. He would sign with the club before being loaned to Blackpool Borough where he played fullback and was player of the year 1970/71.
By this time the bush telegraph was buzzing and Australian league teams came a-clamouring.
North Sydney Bears won his signature after Canterbury’s Peter “Bullfrog” Moore showed a rare error of judgement by deeming Pickup too small. He would twice be Bears player-of-the-year, 1972 and ’74.
Unlike in rugby union, league rep selectors could see quality. Pickup was picked for NSW in 1972 and took off for England again in ’73, this time as a member of Bob Fulton’s Kangaroo touring party.
Pickup would play 11 times for Australia at five-eighth. And each time in the centres outside him was Bozo Fulton.
Inside him, often as not, wearing the No.7 was another recently-passed champion of rugby league, Tom Raudonikis.
Manly legend Terry Randall was on that ’73 tour, too, and along with Pickup, Raudonikis and Sea Eagles team-mate Graeme “Wombat” Eadie, was part of the quartet blamed (often quite correctly) for any tour shenanigans.
In conversation with Randall in a pub one day, Pickup declared that Randall was carrying on like a cartoon character of the day by the name of “Igor”. Randall owns the nickname to this day.
Back in Australia and Moore admitted the error of his ways and Pickup was signed to the Bulldogs for 1975. Talking about the inherent hardness of “the Berries” Pickup told journalist Ian Heads: “That’s why I went there – I got sick of playing against them!”
He would bang up his knee in the ’75 World Cup, miss season ‘76, lose pace and play just 47 first grade games for Canterbury, his last in round 9 of 1979, a 15-2 loss to St George who would beat Canterbury in that year’s grand final.
Many of that young Canterbury team would later credit Pickup’s influence after “The Entertainers” won the famous 1980 grand final over Eastern Suburbs.
Pickup would go on to be a financial planner for AMP, a manager of boxer Jeff “Hitman” Harding and chief executive of the Adelaide Rams in the Super League War.
Pickup was awarded the Australian Sporting Medal in 2000 for services to Australian Sport. He was named at five-eighth in the North Sydney Bears Team of the Century.
On June 7, 2021, Tim Pickup passed away after a battle with dementia. He was 72.