Home » Tributes flow for rugby league NRL HOF writer Ian Heads

Tributes flow for rugby league NRL HOF writer Ian Heads

Honourable, ethical, dignified, engaging and a superman of sports journalism.

Friends and former colleagues have paid tribute to legendary sports journalist and author, Ian Heads, who died on Monday, aged 81.

Heads, who was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame last July, passed away in hospital surrounded by family after a long illness.

A literary giant, Heads began his journalistic career with The Daily and Sunday Telegraph in the early 1960s, and also worked for Rugby League Week, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun-Herald.

As a sports historian, Heads also authored more than 40 sporting biographies and histories.

Editor-at-large Phil Rothfield was a cadet journalist under Heads at The Daily Telegraph in the 1970s.

“I learnt more from Ian Heads than anyone else in journalism. No person covered the game with Ian’s honour and integrity,” Rothfield said. “He was the doyen and loved mentoring the next generation of journalists.”

Retired sports journalist Ray Chesterton was a close colleague of Heads’ for more than half a century and described him as “one of rugby league’s greatest servants”.

“I worked with, and sometimes in opposition to Ian for more than 50 years in rugby league,” Chesterton said. “Whether on tour or in Australia, his ethics, integrity and sense of fairness never faltered.

“He was one of rugby league’s greatest servants as a journalist, historian and author. He lovingly walked arm in arm with rugby league through its century of colourful adventures, recording them accurately and fairly for future generations.

“He researched, analysed and wrote impartially about the good and bad. The heroes and the villains. It was engaging writing that opened new horizons for a welcoming audience.

“When the day’s work was done there was no one more companionable than Ian to share a moment and spin a yarn.”

Heads was honoured with an OAM in 2010 for service to the media as a sports journalist. Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys described Heads as “one of the game’s great storytellers”.

“Ian is quite simply a doyen of rugby league journalism,” V’landys said. “I know that yesterday, Ian was still enjoying rugby league, listening to the game between Manly and Parramatta on the radio with his family.

“On behalf of the Commission, I extend our sincerest condolences to wife Joy, children Phil and Katherine, his family and all those who knew him.”

Veteran broadcaster and journalist Peter Peters worked with and against Heads.

“Ian Heads was the quintessential sporting journalist,” Peters said. “His trademark black rimmed glasses gave him a Clark Kent look and he was indeed the Superman of sports journalism for many decades in Australia’s biggest city.

“I had the privilege of working with and against ‘Headsy’ when there was a fierce rivalry between the respective publications.

“There was never a need to doubt his stories – they were always right. His early day learnings of how, when and where were always spot on.

“Away from his trusty typewriter, Ian was a family man with high moral standards that he lived his life by. He loved sport and was in his element covering all sports although his greatest passion was rugby league.”

League historian and statistician David Middleton said: “We lost a great person today and a dear friend” while legendary broadcaster Jim Maxwell described Heads as “dignified and engaging.”

Originally published as Vale Ian Heads: Legendary writer dead, having helped shape Australian sports landscape