The Australian and NSW Rugby community is mourning the loss of Wallabies and Waratahs legend Rob Heming, who passed away last week aged 90.
Heming, born in Namatanai in New Ireland off New Guinea, made the move to Australia on the last boat out after the Japanese invaded the area.
He excelled as a swimmer initially, narrowly missing out on representing Australia in the 100 metres freestyle at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Heming would make the move to Rugby, joining Manly at age 23, with his remarkable leap and long limbs helping him stand out at number eight and lock.
It took two seasons before he was selected for New South Wales against the 1957/58 Wallabies, becoming Waratah #939, but had to wait another three years for his Test debut as he was unavailable for the tour to New Zealand in 1958 after he bought an optometry practice.
Heming worked his way into the Test side in 1961 at age 28, making his debut against Fiji at lock alongside John Thornett in the 2nd Test, a 20-14 victory at the S.C.G.
When he returned to the side in 1963, a bulked-up Heming established his status as one of the greatest line-out forwards in the game, helping Australia to back-to-back wins over the Springboks in South Africa, the first time it had occurred that century.
“Without him [Heming] it is doubtful whether Australia would have won two Tests,” leading South African Rugby writer A.C Parker wrote at the time.
The following year, Heming toured New Zealand and was part of the 20-5 3rd Test victory, the largest ever All Blacks’ loss at home at the time.
“A star is born” exclaimed legendary Kiwi journalist T.P. McLean as Heming went on to play a leading role in Australia’s first series win against South Africa in 1965.
During the final Test of the series and the game in the balance, Heming was knocked out in a ruck. He came onto the sideline, shrugged off the ambulance guys, and charged back out there to win the very next line-out with a magnificent leap, inspiring them to victory.
Heming would bring up the final of his 21 Tests in 1966/67 when he toured for the final time with the Fifth Wallabies to Britain.
In ‘The Top 100 Wallabies’ written by Peter Jenkins, Heming was selected by a panel of seven, including five Wallabies, at number 23 and the second-row partner of John Eales in the Top XV.
He would be inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame in 2021.
"Rob Heming was widely regarded as the greatest line-up jumper in the world during the period he played international Rugby,” Classic Wallabies President Simon Poidevin said at the time
"Rob was not a big man, playing at 15 stone but his formidable vertical jump and skill in the air provided invaluable quality line-out ball for his talented backline colleagues to forge famous Wallaby victories against the Springboks and All Blacks.
"He was a real Gentleman of the game and enjoyed a successful career as an optometrist.”
Rob is survived by children Peta and Heidi, father-in-law to James and George, grandkids Finn, Avalon, Marley, Perri, Harper and Willow, companion Gail and former wife and friend Jenn.
Vale Rob Heming.