My name is Justin and I was one of Rolands childhood friends. I first want to say thank you to Rolands family, especially Gerwyn and Jess, for letting me share a few words about Rols today. It’s an honour and also one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
For the past few days I’ve tried to encapsulate Roland into words…. what he meant to me, the influence he had over not just my life but everyones life, his humour, his intellect, his loyalty…. I’ve typed thousands of words recounting our past and about who Roland was.
The more I thought, the more I wrote, the more I realised that words just can’t encapsulate who Roland is. It would take days to go through all of the stories that I’ve shared with Rols, and many more days for each of you to share your own memories about Rols. So instead of trying to cover all of who Roland is I’ve got a few thoughts to share and I hope that later on today you’ll be around to do the same.
Rols and I first met on the cricket field. – wicket keeper story.
The following year Rols, myself, matty whelan and our Captain Shatz and others went on our first cricket tour down to Geelong where our friendships were properly forged for the 25 years to come. Roland and I stuck with cricket and shared many great times in the middle together. There was one occasion when we opened the batting together in U/15’s and were playing in the semi final against one of the Southern District sides. They’d put on 170 odd the day before and Roland and I strode out to the middle to try and make the final.
We ended up making the runs with all ten wickets in hand and by the end we had the entire team cheering, not for us to win the game but for us to get out so that they could have a bat as well.
I ended up with 70 odd and Roland made it to the 90’s as we score the winning runs. He jogged up to me afterwards for what I thought was a partnership embrace when he stopped short and said “Why did you score so many runs, you’ve cost me another another Century”.
I’ve spoken to lots of people about Rols the past week. One of those people was an old cricket coach we shared and both looked up to, David King. He talked about our first U/17’s Cricket tour and how Roland was scared to face the quick bowlers of NSW and Queensland. Roland eventually he said “bugger it I’m going to do this” and with that he went on to hit runs in every game we played.
Although he was naturally talented at Cricket he didn’t try any less, in fact he put more effort in than most of us. In preparation for that tour we would go down to the nets on the weekends and set up the bowling machine. Rolls had me set it to as fast as it would go and fire down bucket after bucket of short balls so he could get ready to face a barrage of short bowling. Now this might sound a bit boring from my point of view, but Roland wasn’t great at facing short fast bowling at the time so I took a tiny bit of pleasure each time he missed the ball and he ended up with a giant red welt on his ribs.
He applied this same determination in every area of his life as well.
We all know that Rolly was, and I’ll quote him “The smartest and most handsome man in all the world”. This quote actually came from the days when we used to frequent the pub quizzes in Darwin. This one occasion we were running late and missed the entire first round. We walked in to Roland sitting on his own at a table, arms in the air saying “I am the smartest and most handsome man in the world”, because after the first round we were 10/10 and leading the Quiz. We didn’t go on to win that night which gave Rols even more reason to remind us just how clever he was without our input.
But when he said that it was in jest and he was often modest, especially around his intelligence. Over the 25 years I knew him he would always dismiss his obvious intellect by saying “You’re way smarter than I am, I’m just really good at studying”. And study he did.
We were at St Johns together from year 8 to year 10 and we were in most classes together. For anyone that shared the a table with him you will remember his leg bouncing up and down. He would never sit still and he would never stay quiet, and this obviously drew the attention of the teacher. The attention was misunderstood one afternoon when we were in year 10 and Roland was once again being himself. The teacher asked Roland to be quiet on a number of occasions and eventually gave him a Friday afternoon detention. Roland misread the detention as opportunity rather than punishment. We caught up on the weekend and Roland explained that he was in detention and the teacher kept looking up at him. Somehow he took this as a sign the teacher was interested in him and approached her, and when she asked what he was doing he said “I know why you’ve got me here, it’s because you want me isn’t it, well here I am”. She told him detention was over and sent him home immediately. Now we all know that Roland on occasion embellished a story for comic effect and even back then I was sure he was doing the same, so you can imagine how shocked I was when I accompanied him to the office on Monday morning to issue a formal apology to both the teacher & of course another round of detentions with Male teachers instead.
I was always so proud to talk about Roland to my friends. “Yeah I’ve got this mate, he got a double degree and became a lawyer, then he gave that up and now he’s a Doctor”. And he was the kind of mate that was a pleasure to take anywhere because you knew he’d fit in, make new friend and be the centre of attention. His ability to warm to other people and form new friends easily is obvious when you look around the Church today.
Roland made such an impact on all our lives. Everywhere, everything and everyone Roland came in to contact with was better because of him. It didn’t matter if he was your colleague at work, a team mate, a casual drinking buddy, a good mate or part of the family – each and everyone of us is a better person because of the influence Roland has had over our lives.
My fondest memories of my past have been when I lived with Roland. Most recently it was living on the foreshore in Darwin and every Monday night we would walk down to the Beach Front Hotel for Monday night Steak night — and every monday night as we walked down Roland would tell me it was the greatest night with the best sunset, the steak was the nicest steak in the world he’d ever had, as was the beer and chips.
That was Roland all over. Any time you spent with him you couldn’t help but be taken away with his excitement around what you were doing — whether that was a home cooked meal, a night out, or a McDonalds Sundae. You couldn’t help but see the world through his rose coloured glasses. That’s what made him special.
I will remember Roland most for being my moral compass. Any problem outside of the Dance floor could be solved simply by asking “What would Roland think I should do”. The special thing for me is that even though Roland has gone he’ll always be there with me to set me in the right direction when I need it.
As I mentioned earlier everyone here will have a different story about Roland, and a few of them no doubt. Afterwards when we go to the Normanby to celebrate Rolands life please introduce yourself to myself and Aaron, to Jess and Gerwyn, to anyone that is there that you don’t know and share your stories.
Roland used to love it when his friends from different circles would come together and meet, and he would love nothing more than for each and every one of us to meet today and shared a beer and a story together in his memory.
Rolly, I’m going to miss you Polly Pissy Pants, you are both cool and handsome.