Geoff Mould
Tue, August 21, 2012 at 17:54
Stephanie Hunt in Alex Hood, Coffs Coast, Coffs Harbour, Dennis Meagher, Geoff Mould, Interesting, Interesting Person, Person

Dennis Meagher tells me that Geoff Mould is the most interesting person he knows on the Coffs Coast.  Geoff is the coach of the local first grade Rugby Union side, and Dennis is captivated by Geoff’s globetrotting stories from his days coaching the Australian 21s and other Rugby Union sides around the world. 

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Brushes with Fame

It’s not every day that you meet someone who has rubbed shoulders with both Australia’s greatest painters and its rugby legends.  But here I am, sitting on the back deck of Geoff Mould’s tiny Sawtell cottage as he recounts a life story littered with the big names of art and sport.  An odd combination, I can’t help but think.

And Geoff agrees.  “I was a bit of an anomaly,” he explains.  “The bohemian, arty farty life, doesn’t really mix with sport.”  And yet somehow it did from the beginning with Geoff who played rugby and cricket at school and represented Australia in baseball, yet could also lose himself with pen and paper.

He came by his multi-faceted interests honestly.  “My father was a real Renaissance man,” Geoff tells me.  “A very intelligent, highly intellectual man from whom I gained a great interest in a lot of things.”  And Geoff admits that he also inherited a touch of snobbery from his father.

Perhaps it is this natural snobbishness that has seen him fit so well into the world of Rugby Union, which is after all a gentleman’s game.  But ironically it was a love of comic books that began his career.

 “The illustrations got me,” says Geoff.  “I started drawing my own comic strips for the amusement of the boys at school.”  So art school seemed a sensible choice when he found himself directionless after high school.  He enrolled in East Sydney Technical College at Darlinghurst and it is here that he rubbed shoulders with the greats of Australian art, studying under Bill Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Ian Fairweather and Frank Hinder.

“In my third year at school I suddenly felt, ‘Well if Dobell and Drysdale and those great painters were having to supplement their income by working, there can’t be a lot of money in being an artist,’” he recalls.  So when representatives of the Education Department came by the Art College looking for students willing to complete their teaching certification and be part of a new high school level art program, Geoff jumped from artist to teacher. 

And education was to be Geoff’s formal career up until he retired his position as headmaster of Narooma High School in 1989.  He did not last long as an art teacher however.  “I didn’t like the art teaching because I thought they made it far to academic,” says Geoff recalling his reason for resigning after 5 years.  But following a brief stint with a commercial art firm he was lured back into teaching, this time teaching Phys Ed at Marsden High School in West Ryde.

“That was really the beginning.  Kicked off my life,” says Geoff.  Despite an initial lack of experience, he reveled in the games, the kids company and the joy of sport.  Within 3 years he was made Secretary of the local zone, and a year later he was seconded to the position of Secretary of the Combined High Schools.  For the next five years Geoff ran school sport in NSW.  “That gave me enormous opportunities to meet a lot of very influential people in the various sports,” he says. 

It also led him into coaching rugby.   “I had great success at that,” Geoff says, and this seems an understatement.  He started coaching schoolboy teams, and in 1977/78 he coached one of the greatest school teams of all time.  “It produced some of the greatest players – the Ella Brothers, Wally Lewis, Michael O’Connor and Michael Hawker.”  Geoff toured with that team through England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Japan and Singapore, winning 17 out of 17 games.  His reputation as a coach was established.  Not only had he rubbed shoulders with greatness, he had played a part in developing that greatness.

He went on to coach senior level teams: NSW Country, Australian Barbarians, Australian 21s.  Once he retired from teaching he spread his wings abroad coaching the Old Blue Club New York, Dartmouth College and Vale Clubs.  “America, South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa: you name it, I’ve been there,” says Geoff.  “I really have had a lucky life.”

Geoff has not been so lucky in love.  He married young, 23, and had two children, Karen and Grant.  But after 26 years his wife left him, a fact that Geoff believes Germaine Greer must answer for.  He remarried after a few years, but the second attempt proved a failure and lasted only 4 years.   

It was the split with his second wife that prompted Geoff’s move to Coffs Harbour.  “I was lonely,” Geoff admits.  “It was the first time I had ever lived on my own and I didn’t handle it very well.”  A colleague called about a job in Coffs Harbour, and when he came up to find out about the job he fell in love with Sawtell.  In 2000 Geoff made the move to his Sawtell cottage and began coaching the Coffs Harbour Rugby club.  After two years coaching locally, he returned to the globetrotting life of coaching Australia 21s, before finally giving it away in 2009.

I had a look at one of the games and I thought God, the bloody standard is so awful, I (can’t) stand watching,” says Geoff, recalling his frustration at watching a local match.  The need to fix it was strong enough that, at 76, Geoff was lured back into coaching and he successfully coached Coffs Harbour’s first grade team to win the competition in 2011.  “And we’re going to win it again this year,” he says.

Geoff plans to retire for good after this year.  “I’ll be 79 next year, so I think that’s enough.”  Invitations continue to come from around the world, but he has had enough of planes.  “I’m too old to sit 5 hours in transit lines,” he grumbles.  He still has his art, which he returned to on moving to Sawtell.  He has his dog, his classical music and BBC television programs to keep him company, and he says he is never bored.  Yet as I am about to leave he says, “I get a little bit lonely at times.”  And I feel sad.  No matter how close we get to fame, how great our achievements or how lucky our lives….growing old is hard.

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Geoff tells me that Alex Hood is the most interesting person he knows.  A Shakesperean actor (we certainly haven't had one of those in the MIPIK pages before), Alex has also travelled extensively and has a tale or two to tell about life on and off the stage.

 

Article originally appeared on The Most Interesting Person I Know (http://themostinterestingpersoniknow.net/).
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