Former Sydney Morning Herald rugby league journalist Alan Clarkson dies

Hefty line-up: Controversy Corner’s Col Pearce, Alan Clarkson, Rex Mossop, Ferris Ashton and Noel Kelly. Photo: Ann Marie Arena Hefty line-up: Controversy Corner’s Col Pearce, Alan Clarkson, Rex Mossop, Ferris Ashton and Noel Kelly. Photo: Ann Marie Arena
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Hefty line-up: Controversy Corner’s Col Pearce, Alan Clarkson, Rex Mossop, Ferris Ashton and Noel Kelly. Photo: Ann Marie Arena

Hefty line-up: Controversy Corner’s Col Pearce, Alan Clarkson, Rex Mossop, Ferris Ashton and Noel Kelly. Photo: Ann Marie Arena

Vale Clarko: Roy Masters’ tribute

Alan Clarkson was a gentleman journalist and a rugby league institution.

Clarkson, who was best known for his work at the Sydney Morning Herald and television appearances over three decades on the panel of Controversy Corner alongside league greats Ferris Ashton, Rex Mossop and Noel Kelly, passed away on Monday night, aged 85.

Former colleagues Ian Heads and John Brady, who worked on rival newspapers, paid tribute to Clarkson as journalist and a friend.

“Clarko was a gentleman sportswriter at a time when that meant something and there was a level of trust that he had with people, which was very deserved,” Brady said. “He was the ying to Bill Mordey’s  yang. Clarko would bet $2 on a horse and Mordey would bet $25,000 and they would be cheering in the same race. He was passionate about his family and he was happy.

“He was an institution in the game and in sports writing in this town and he deserves enormous respect.”

Clarkson started with The Herald in 1954 and was the chief league writer from 1967 to 1989 after the retirement of another in Tom Goodman.

“Clarko probably modelled himself on Tom Goodman’s gentlemanly approach and he presented well, he had that resonate voice that was good for television and radio,” Heads recalled. “He was the last of that generation of Ernie Christensen, Bill Mordey, Tom Goodman, Phil Tressider and those sort of blokes.

“Rugby league was still a part of his life right until the end, he would still sit down and watch it. He had gone to school with Clive Churchill and had a close relationship with him as a player and coach so it gave him a kick to see Souths win the grand final last year.”

Clarkson covered five Kangaroo Tours, a tour of New Zealand in 1969 and the World Cup in the UK in 1970, and was awarded an OAM in 1990 for services to sport in journalism. He also covered three Olympic Games, and countless Davis Cup and major tennis tournaments.

His reputation was built on accuracy and the unsensational presentation of the news.

After predicting that State of Origin would not succeed, Clarkson wrote that he had been wrong after the opening match in 1980.

His last active involvement with the game was to attend an Origin dinner at ANZ Stadium the night that NSW finally ended Queensland’s eight year winning streak last season.

The NRL extended its deepest condolences to Clarkson’s family on Tuesday following his death overnight.

“Alan Clarkson was a legend in the field and will always be remembered fondly for the role he played in the game,” NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said.