Stuart Robley was born on 26th June 1932. Stuart’s first involvement with the sport of athletics, and that of his wife Valerie, was to follow their daughter Jane, to the fledgling Little Athletics movement at Geelong in 1967. Down to Landy Field, which would become almost a second home to Stuart over the next 50 years.
Stuart’s first foray into athletic administration was to take on the role of “Officials” on the Executive of the Geelong Little Athletics Centre in 1967-68. The following year, Stuart, Valerie and Jane moved into senior athletics. Valerie and Jane with the Sacred Heart club, whilst Stuart who initially joined Sacred Heart, later joining the St. Joseph’s club in the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association (VAAA). In 1973, Stuart became the Assistant Secretary of the Geelong Regional Centre and a year later, to assist his close friend, the late Laurie Henry, he took over from Laurie as Secretary whilst Laurie became President of the Geelong Regional Centre. Stuart would remain as Secretary, through amalgamation of the women’s and men’s Regional Centre’s until 1982, when he resigned in favour of Richard Lawysz. This was however, only the beginning of his immense contribution to athletics at Regional or State level. At Regional Centre level, Stuart continued on the Board in the dual roles of Summer (until 1988) and Winter (until 1987) Portfolio Manager.
For a year in 1988-89 he was the Technical Manager at the Geelong Centre, followed by then perhaps his greatest local leadership role, he became President until 1994. He combined his last year as President with the Officials Portfolio. Stuart resigned the Presidency at Geelong in mid-1994 in favour of Al Mclean; in Stuart’s words “to bring in fresh ideas”. However, his involvement in the sport of athletics did not diminish, only expanded. Stuart had been a member of the John Landy Field Management Committee (JLFMC) since 1975, representing the interests of the Geelong men’s Regional Centre, but more importantly over the years, the Geelong community as a whole. Stuart was Secretary of JLFMC from 1975 to 1981, and again from 1984 to 2014 and a shorter stint in 2015.
Stuart was the last President of JLFMC, serving from 2016 to 2017, when the management of Landy Field was handed back to the City of Greater Geelong. He had been on the Committee, serving Landy Field, athletics and the community for 42 years. Throughout those 42 years, he played a pivotal role in the development of Landy Field from a six-lane cinder track, to a rubberised bitumen and finally to an eight lane IAAF standard track and comparable infield facilities. He was also at the forefront in the planning and construction of the W.J.P. Wood Pavilion at Landy Field, the new lighting, and many upgrades to the competition office, seating and other infrastructure. Fittingly, the stand on the main straight at Landy Field is named the “S.E. Robley Stand”. He was a visionary for an idea to come to fruition and benefit the athletic community. At State level, Stuart served in a number of roles for the VAAA (later VAA and Athletics Victoria [AV]).
In 1976 he joined the VAAA Executive Board as a member and also joined the VAAA Country Committee, where he served at various times as Committee Member, Assistant Secretary and Secretary until 1982, when the VAAA amalgamated with the women’s Association (VWAAA).
From 1978 until 1982, Stuart was the Country Executive Officer on the Board of the VAAA. In this capacity, he was a driving force in the promotion and improvement of the annual Country Championships. In 1978, the “Countries” were scheduled to be hosted by the Geelong Centre’s (VAAA and VWAAA) as a combined meet for the first time in almost 40 years. Stuart was instrumental in obtaining the first ever commercial sponsorship for the “Countries”. “The Weekly Times” newspaper would provide both financial assistance and vital publicity for the championships for many years to come. Stuart’s involvement in State athletics affairs increased, but he never lost his passion or enthusiasm for grass roots athletics.
From 1982, for a number of years, he was a Team Manager for the Country teams which travelled to Canberra for the East Coast Challenge. In April 1981 the VAAA held a conference at the Australian Institute of Management, where Stuart Robley was one of six seminar leaders who delivered discussion papers on the future of athletics in Victoria. At his passing, Stuart was the last surviving Chairman of the VAAA Board, a position he held in 1981- 82, the 90th and final year of the VAAA. As an official, Stuart was an accomplished announcer and rose through the ranks to become a field referee, from earlier beginnings as a track official in the 1970’s. In 1985, he was appointed to officiate at the IAAF World Cup at Canberra. In 2001-02, Stuart served as Secretary of the Organising Committee for the Oceania Masters Games which were conducted in Geelong. Stuart did not seek accolades and rewards. However, due recognition of his outstanding service to athletics came such that in May 1981, he was awarded Life Membership of the Geelong Regional Centre and in 1987, awarded Life Membership of St. Joseph’s Athletic Club.
On 23rd June 1988, Stuart, along with Fred Graf (GHY), Stan Nicholls OAM (BHA), Henry Schubert (SSH) and Mark Shilston (COB) was elected to Life Membership of Athletics Victoria. He continued to assist AV during the 1990’s and 2000’s as the Returning Officer at the AV Annual Meeting. In 2001 Stuart was awarded the Australian Government Centenary Medal to recognise his long and valued contribution to Geelong Athletics and in 2010, was awarded Athletics Australia’s Platinum Service Award for 40+ years of service to athletics. Stuart enjoyed his regular outing during the winter months to the Geelong Cross Country Relay Championships where he was delighted presenting young athletes with the trophy named in his honour to the winning relay team. Final fitting recognition was at the recent AV Annual Meeting, where he was granted the 50 Year Distinguished Service Award by the members of AV. He was to have been presented with the award at the forthcoming Countries, scheduled for Geelong in January 2020. Due recognition of a gentleman, an approachable mentor for officials and club administrators as well as someone who endeavoured to provide opportunities for athletes to flourish and succeed. Stuart Robley passed away on Thursday 15th August 2019 aged 87. His funeral will be held on Wednesday 21st August 2019 at 1.00pm, at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Bostock Avenue, Manifold Heights (Geelong).
VALE: Mr. Stuart Robley