Who Is Walter Pless?

Walter_Pless

A teacher by profession, but is now in his 37th year as a football writer. Has written for "Soccer Action" (Melbourne), "Australian Soccer Weekly" (Sydney) and "World Soccer" (London), as well as for several Tasmanian newspapers. Currently contributing to "Goal!Weekly" in Melbourne and the Australian magazine "Soccer International". Played for Croatia-Glenorchy, Caledonians, Metro, Rapid and University in Tasmania, as well as in the United States of America. Coached University, Metro and Croatia-Glenorchy.

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Kilmarnock

Photo:  Robert Biggar is second from the right in the back row of this photo of Caledonians in the late 1960s wearing the Kilmarnock strip.  FFT director and former FIFA referee Jack Johnston is to Bob's left.  The photo was taken at KGV Park.

Robert Biggar, the former Caledonians, White Eagles and St Mirren Lindisfarne defender, passed away in Hobart on Saturday at the age of 64.

He was the father of Metro goalkeeper, Neil Biggar.

Buckingham

Photo:  Bob Biggar is at the extreme left in the back row of this photo of Buckingham, Caledonians' reserve side, in about 1968 at Wentworth Park.  Bernard Siggins is second from right in the back row and Jack Johnston is second from the left in the front row [PlessPix]

Bob had suffered ill health in recent years but had only returned from a holiday in Bali recently.

His family were from Scotland.  Bob was born in Hurlock, Kilmarnock, and he supported Kilmarnock as a youngster but Rangers in more recent times.

His father, Jim, was manager of Caledonians and his late, older brother, John, played for Caledonians and White Eagles before moving to Launceston in his employment and playing there.

Bob and I were school mates at Claremont High School and Hobart Matriculation College in the 1960s and played for the school teams.

He was known as a fierce competitor and a ferocious tackler who did not take prisoners.

I think he was the only player I knew who would be sent off during school training sessions.

In those days, we’d play small-sided games all lunch hour with a tennis ball and we quickly learned that if you could control and volley a tennis ball, a football presented no problems on Saturdays.

a_Claremont_High_School_under-15_soccer_team_1963

Photo:  The Claremont High team of 1963 on the Claremont High School oval [Photo from Claremont High School magazine of 1963]

Bob was a fan of Scotland and Manchester United legend Denis Law and in those days before the Internet we’d wait impatiently for the latest copy of Charles Buchan’s “Football Monthly” to arrive by sea from England so that we could read about our favourite teams and players.

We’d have to wait a week for the film of the FA Cup Final to arrive and be shown on ABC TV.

Then followed hours of kicking a ball about on the Claremont High Oval on Sunday afternoons with our mate, Ralph Dymond.  Some footage of these kickabouts is available on YouTube, including a sequence showing Bob performing his juggling skills.  Mind you, one afternoon, Ralph and I had to take Bob to hospital after he attempted an aerial side-ways scissors kick and landed on his shoulder.

Bob and I were in the Southern Tasmania Under-16 side that played five games in Sydney in 1964 as guests of Gladesville Hornsby.

He had a splendid pair of the new-fangled Adidas boots with the moulded soles, which were perfect for the hard New South Wales grounds.

I sat out the first game and he sat out the third, when he offered to lend me his spanking new footwear.

I eagerly accepted the offer, but disaster ensued.  I suffered a badly broken leg early in the game and was taken to hospital by ambulance, where doctors had to cut the boots off rather than try and undo the laces.

Bob was nice about it, but I don’t think he ever forgave me for destroying his fabulous new boots with the moulded blue soles.

b_Claremont_High_School_Under-16_soccer_team_1964

Photo:  The 1964 Claremont High School team, coached by the late Dennis MeehanBob Biggar is fourth from the left in the back row. [Photo from Claremont High School magazine of 1964]

We played for Hobart Matriculation College the following year, he in the outfield and me in goal because I was still recuperating from that broken leg.

I played so poorly in goal in one match that he took over from me between the sticks during that game.  There were mixed opinions on whether he did better.

We won the league that year with strange scorelines such as 6-1, 8-2, 4-1, but we won't talk about the goalkeeping of the winning side indicated by such scorelines. 

Bob began his senior career while still at school with Wanderers, who no longer exist, and who played some of their games at Cadbury’s ground.

He then moved to local Scottish club Caledonians and then to Polish-backed club White Eagles.

He finished his playing career with St Mirren in Hobart.

In recent years he would often go to North Chigwell to watch Neil play for Metro and he was very proud of the progress made by Neil’s son, Kieran.

Bob is survived by his wife of 43 years, Janet, sons Neil and Iain, and sister Elaine.

His funeral is at 12.30pm on Wednesday at Turnbull Family Funerals in Letitia Street, North Hobart, which, ironically, is the old Hobart Matriculation College, which was our school and for whose team we played all those years ago.

Rest in peace, Bob.

St_Mirren

Photo:  Bob Biggar (fifth from left in back row) in the St Mirren Lindisfarne team n 1975 [Photo courtesy of Bill Paterson]

Comments   

+1 #22 Allie Butler 2013-10-31 05:36
Fabulous Dad. Felt like I had known Bob. Fantastic article.Great photos.
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+4 #21 Jack Johnston 2013-10-30 22:00
Walter, I was so saddened to hear of Bob's passing but thanks for the article that brought back so many fond memories of good times. I missed the notice so, unfortunately, also missed the funeral but would like to extend to all of the family my heartfelt condolences and thoughts at this time. Bob was great to play with but a terror to play against when we Clarence High boys got flogged.
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+2 #20 Anonymous 2013-10-30 11:59
Brian, I think you'll find that Kilmarnock once did wear hoops rather than vertical stripes.
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+5 #19 Anonymous 2013-10-30 11:18
Interesting seeing you in your early days Walter! Great read. And condolences to the Biggar family.
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+1 #18 Brian Young 2013-10-30 11:16
Great article.
Kilmarnock play in blue & white vertical stripes, not hoops.
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+1 #17 Stratos plomaritis 2013-10-30 10:42
My condolences to the Biggar family
RIP Rob.
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+2 #16 Bill Paterson 2013-10-30 10:40
St Mirren team
Back row l-r
D Blake, J Graham, R Kelly, S Smith, R Bigger, W Paterson, H Richardson, H Fehlandt, and H McKinnon
Front row l-r
S Langridge, R nightingale, R Wilkins, I Radcliffe, and B Sutherland.
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+6 #15 Mark Gobbey 2013-10-30 09:35
Well written as usual Walter, to Neil and family, seeing the people at the beautiful service today and then back at the bowls club shows how respected bob was as a player, a friend and a family man, you should should be proud.
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+2 #14 Anonymous 2013-10-30 09:34
My condolences to Neil and his family.
Had great fun at eagles when Bob coached us in the under 15's.
Rip Bob


Peter Tsakiris
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+2 #13 Walter Pless 2013-10-30 07:53
Hi Rowan. Are you in the back row of the St Mirren team in the photo? Cheers!
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