Like all champions, or indeed any sportsperson who enters the pantheon of elite company, Bob Fulton trained his absolute guts out.

For to make athletic performance look easy, or natural, or just better than everyone else, takes time and practice and single-minded focus some could call scary.

Bob “Bozo” Fulton – who sadly passed away on Sunday aged 73 – worked it out better and earlier than most everyone else in rugby league that the more you put in – and the more it hurt – the more you get back.

Fulton got just about everything back: premierships as player and coach; Kangaroo Tours as player and coach; nigh-on every individual accolade in the game including the ultimate one – Immortality.

He was mad fit, Bozo.

My father-in-law, a local of these northern beaches, remembers hearing Fulton training before he first saw him.

One evening in the mid-1970s, old boy Viv heard a man roaring, guttural, full on bull moose stuff. Viv turned a corner and came upon a training paddock there at North Head where the great and famous Bob Fulton was doing sprints on his own.

And he was roaring, urging himself to run through the pain of lactic acid in his legs and lungs. Running through the pain and screaming it away.

Fulton was the best player many people had ever seen. Channel Nine commentator Ray Warren was one of them, telling this journo in Big League magazine:

“He could create something from nothing. Speed was probably his greatest asset but he was also evasive, strong. He could break a tackle or burn them.

“I remember a game against Easts at the old Sydney Sports Ground, he scored a try from the halfway in which he went almost the full width of the field.

“He was extraordinary,” Warren said.

If there was a knock on his footy it was his passing, or lack of it. Bozo, they’ll snipe, would run and run and run, and would continue running until he couldn’t run any further. And then he may have passed. But Fulton running was, generally, the best way for this team to advance the football over the stripe.

As Des Hasler said on Sunday: “He was a winner.”

I didn’t see him play, not really. First season I really remember was his last, in 1979. I was all Saints then – Rod Reddy, Craig Young, “Slippery” Steve Morris. And Fulton was 32 and playing for the Roosters. Year later the coached the Chooks in the “Steve Gearin” grand final.

But he was all Manly. Their greatest player.

Poster man: Bob Fulton. Pic: DansNRLCollectables.com

Club Secretary Ken Arthurson – who may himself be immortal, so long was he at the club – recruited Fulton from Wests in Wollongong in 1966. Pretty good move. Because for over a decade Fulton killed ‘em.

He ran hard and straight, quickly, evasively. He could break a tackle with brawn and a low centre of gravity. Or just burn ’em outside, inside.

Find some vision of the bloody 1973 grand final against Cronulla. Fulton scored two tries, was posthumously awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for his diamond-hard charges at high speed.

Didn’t see him?

Don’t want to make comparisons. No-one running about today has achieved what Fulton did. Most won’t ever. But for the look of him, the style of play, think if Brian To’o played five-eighth and had the smarts of Nathan Cleary.

From the recent past only one I can think of is Broncos centre Brent Tate. Got one? Comments are open…

Rugby union fans could think Tim Horan: dynamic, hard; and like Horan, Fulton could turn it on – and then run as fast as he had to.

Union? In July of 1968 Lance Bombadier Robert Fulton – who’d stopped playing for Manly when he was called up for “Nashos”, National Service – was selected to play five-eighth for the Combined Services rugby team. Their opponent at North Sydney Oval were the New Zealand All Blacks.

National Service conscript Lance Bombadier Robert Fulton. Pic: Fairfax

Fulton always led. Aged 20 he captain-coached City versus Country, the youngest player on the field.

He captained Manly at 21 in the 1968 grand final against star-studded Souths – Sattler, Sait, Walters. Our Boze kicked a two-point field goal in the 13-9 loss while Eric Simms landed five.

Four years later he landed a field goal in Manly’s first grand final victory, beating Ron Coote‘s Roosters 19-14.

As a coach he has enormous legacy. Steve Menzies spoke for many when he said: “Bozo was the greatest coach I ever played for. His influence on my career was enormous.

“His vision nurtured my hidden talents and allowed me to have the career I did.”

On Sunday afternoon at Bankwest Stadium, there they went again, Manly and Parra. And wearing the No.6 jumper and throwing outrageous no-look passes that led to tries was Josh Schuster.

He was recruited by: Bozo Fulton.

The advice he received from Fulton could be paraphrased as this: Be yourself; be humble; And train your bloody guts out.

Vale, champion.