Geoff McLachlan was one of Queensland’s finest sports photographers, with a particular affection for the rugby league code.
McLachlan, who played league for Wynnum-Manly, died in September, aged 78.
It wasn’t just the technical side of the profession which made Geoff so respected in the media, alongside Queensland Newspaper colleagues, like Jim Fenwick, Brian Church and Roman Biegi. It was also his awareness of what made a story, the angles that would attract the interest of the reader.
He was a great help to reporters, particularly the younger ones learning their craft. I count myself as one of those.
Geoff would often come up to me, to tell me about something he had seen on the field, which I may have missed. At other times he would relate dressing room gossip to me, because he often had earlier access to the rooms than me.
I played touch footy alongside Geoff, for a number of seasons, in a police competition at Davies Park, West End.
The ‘Telegraph’ entered a side as part of media relations with the police, and we always gave a good account of ourselves, against police sides that included a host of players from the Souths’ and Brothers’ clubs, most notably Mal Meninga. (Occasionally we had ‘ring-ins’, people such as Wallabies, Michael Cook and Greg Martin, and former Australian Schoolboys’ rugby rep., Richard Leslie, as well as Geoff’s son, Michael).
Geoff was one of our fittest players, and was all over the field, chasing attackers or seeking the ball.
He was a more than handy five eighth for the journalists’ rugby league side, before my arrival at the ‘Telegraph’ in 1975. In 1976, he was coach/manager of the Queensland side which played New South Wales at Centennial Park in Sydney. (I was the five eighth, with second rower, Norm Harriden the skipper).
I did a number of ‘general’ jobs with Geoff in the 1970s, before I moved to sport.
On one occasion we were sent to Gayndah, in the North Burnett area of Queensland, to report on the filming of ‘The Mango Tree’, which starred Christopher Pate, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Gerard Kennedy and Robert Helpmann.
At the end of the day, ‘Telegraph’ Chief of Staff, Frank Watkinson said we could stay at Gayndah overnight, and get on the drink with the cast and crew. But no. Geoff had to get back to bayside Brisbane for competition table tennis.
So, he drove like a bat out of hell, dodging kangaroos, to get back on time. I wasn’t pleased.
With the passing of time, I forgave him.
One of the ‘nicest’ photos Geoff took was of legendary Brisbane footballer, Des Morris, on the day ‘DJ announced he was hanging up the boots. Geoff captured Des with two of his children, Matthew and Luke, in the dressing rooms after the game.
Featured with this story, is a small sample of Geoff’s work, as well as a couple of photos of the man himself.
1 ‘The King’ Wally Lewis
2 Wally Lewis and Ross Strudwick
3 Gene Miles after season ending knee surgery
4 Test prop, Greg Dowling playing for Brisbane Norths
5 A fearsome sight. Noah Savuro playing for North Queensland
6 Geoff McLachlan (far left, back row) with the 1976 Queensland Journalists side in Sydney
7 Geoff McLachlan and the great Arthur Beetson in the Frank Burke Stand at Lang Park.
8 Des Morris and his two boys, after Des’s final premiership game.