By Carey Clements
It is with great sadness that the New Zealand Universities and Tertiary Students Rugby League announces the death of one of its former Presidents and Life Members, Wesley Owen ‘Bud’ Lisle MNZM, who died peacefully last night at the Papakura Rest Home and Hospital following a month of declining health. He was aged 88, following his birthday last Thursday on 27 June.
Few people can claim to have been involved in league for more than 80 years, but in the case of Bud, it is very true, from the time he began playing as a five year old with the Aranui and then the Linwood Clubs in Christchurch. A decade later saw him selected into the Canterbury team which competed at the very first New Zealand Schoolboys tournament in Auckland in 1946. The following year he was selected in the first ever NZ Schoolboys team. After leaving secondary school, he then took up employment with the New Zealand Railways, which was to last more than 30 years.
As a result, Bud maintained his enthusiasm with league whenever a train would take him over to the South Island’s West Coast, although whenever he was back in Christchurch he would also be involved, most famously being to get former rugby player and future Kiwi and Kiwi coach Lory Blanchard, into playing league. Bud later transferred up to Wellington and joined the St George Club. Although stocky in physique, Bud played as a winger who was noted for outstanding speed out wide. He represented Wellington between 1953 and 1963
Although he was now very busy with his job with the Railways, Bud still found time in to establish rugby league in Manawatu in 1957 and in doing so became the provincial body’s first Life Member. As his playing days finished in 1965 following 17 years of competitive league, Bud got involved with league as an administrator as well as a coach and referee.
As well as selecting the Wellington provincial side for a number of years, Bud coached the team in 1967 and then again between 1970 and 1973, during which time the black and olds captured and subsequently held onto the Rugby League Cup for a number of challenges between 1970 and 1971.
In 1974, Bud began his involvement with New Zealand Universities as a selector and then within a few years was managing the national side to 7’s tournaments as well as the 1979 tour to Australia, the first internal tours between 1980 and 1983 and the first side which went to England and France in 1984.
A man who never suffered fools and who was always there when it came to the hard yards off the field around areas like fundraising (which seemed to be his specialist), Bud also never forgot the players that played for NZU and for many years, would send them Christmas cards.
Between 1985 and 1992 Bud became the President and Chairman of the NZ Universities Rugby League and in that time, saw it hosted the inaugural Student World Cup, while seeing the side go overseas on three other occasions in addition to more internal tours. He also continued to manage the NZU team. His last involvement in that role came in 1994 when the team played fixtures against Otago, West Coast and Canterbury.
Not one to move on from the game in a happy retirement, Bud was elected onto the NZRL Board during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, where his blunt and frank nature cast him aside from some of his fellow administrators, while at the same time became an unofficial voice of the big league public.
In addition to being Manawatu’s first Life Member, he was also a Life Member of the St George Club, the Wellington provincial body and NZ Universities. He was awarded a NZRL Distinguished Award in 1984 and four years later became a Life Member. In his spare time, he also became a magpie of rugby league memorabilia, which absolutely filled his house in South Auckland, which was where he relocated to in the mid 1970’s.
Bud also continued to attend NZRL Annual Meeting where again his distinctive voice around accountability would keep the officials on their toes, as well as getting out and watching games or simply doing more fundraising.
In short, rugby league was Bud Lisle’s life. He was unique, he was loyal, he was stubborn, but was overall entirely devoted to a game as a servant which he thought he owed and not the game owing him. We thank him for being part of our lives and for being involved in the game for eight long decades.