Former Test rugby league forward, Dan Dempsey publicly declared that Tivoli Tigers’ and Ipswich representative forward, Stu Pankoff was good enough to follow in his footsteps, into the Australian team.

Dempsey, speaking at a farewell banquet for winger, Denis Flannery in 1952, said Pankoff should have been accompanying the Ipswich Brothers’ flyer to Britain and France with the Kangaroos. A veteran of seven Tests for Australia, Dempsey had toured Britain with the Kangaroos in 1929-30 and 1933-34, from Tivoli Tigers, and went on to coach the club after the War.

Pankoff, whose father, John was a Latvian immigrant, who fought with the AIF on the Western Front, had played for Ipswich against Britain in 1950, and more than matched it with the fearsome Lions’ pack in a torrid 18-13 loss.

In 1951, Pankoff, an engineer, had time away from football to work in the shipyards in Brisbane, and in 1952 followed his father to Cairns, for work, resisting offers from local rugby league clubs.

Pankoff returned to Ipswich in 1953 and represented the city against the touring American All Stars, making headlines for a fight with All Stars’ skipper, Mike Dimitro.

The Ipswich Rugby League tossed Tivoli out of the competition in 1954 – to avoid a bye – and the Tigers played in the Lockyer Valley competition, beating Laidley in the Grand Final at Forest Hill. But the club struggled for numbers, and the following year folded, as the Ipswich League refused to reverse the earlier decision.

Pankoff was broken hearted, and, rather than play for someone else, retired. “I wouldn’t go near a football field, I was so disgusted by the decision to exclude us from the competition,” he said, years later. “That was so cruel.”

He continued to attend Tivoli reunions, with the Tigers’ name living on at Ipswich Norths, the club that has had a long association with the renowned Langer family.

Stuart Pankoff died on January 10, aged 93. His funeral took place in Ipswich on January 19. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Valerie (nee McNamara). They had three children – John, Margaret and Janet.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Stu for Men of League magazine in 2017, and caught up with him again the following year at his Eastern Heights (Ipswich) home, as well as having several telephone conversations with him. He was always as bright as a button; a fountain of knowledge and a delight to talk to. He had a Guinness waiting for me in his fridge, but I never did get up there to enjoy it with him, which is something I regret.

Stu Pankoff (centre) in a Tivoli Tigers team photograph
Stu Pankoff at his Ipswich home, with the Tivoli Tigers’ emblem

2 responses to “VALE STU PANKOFF

    • Thankyou – memories forever in our hearts along with the Tivoli Tigers – he spoke of them in his final days!

Leave a comment or reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s