It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of David Bertram who passed away peacefully on Friday morning.
Loving husband of Helen; he leaves behind sons Iain, Andrew and Hamish, Father-in-Law of Sharon and Leanne and Grandpa of Alexander, Callan and Arden. To his family, he was always optimistic and cheerful, no matter how difficult life was. He was constant with his unconditional love and support of his family till the end.
David was a long time servant to the game of rugby in Victoria, as a player, administrator, coach, father and spectator, whose love of the game and the lessons it taught never diminished over time.
His first participation came in 1950. It was in his final year of Junior School at Scotch College, when a school friend challenged him to try the game when he was “bagging” it. “You cannot bag the game if you have never played” he was told. So after playing football for Scotch on the Friday, he turned up Saturday morning to prove his mate wrong and his love of the game was immediate, he said “I was always involved in the play”. David continued to play throughout his time at Scotch College.
After leaving school he joined St Kilda RUFC, where he was first selected to play for Victoria. After a couple of years at St Kilda, along with several friends from Scotch College, they founded the Old Scotch Collegians RUFC which, in time, became Hawthorn RUFC. He continued playing until 1979 when injuries finally took their toll.
His contribution to Old Scotch Collegians extended well beyond being a player. David coached the Colts, 2nds and 1sts teams throughout the 60’s and 70’s. He contributed significant time to the club committee between 1955 and 1979 which included time as the Club President. David also represented the club as a VRU Delegate until his retirement. He was honoured with Life Membership to Old Scotch Collegians RUFC for services to the club, an honour that is still recognised at Kiwi-Hawthorn RUFC.
Besides his contributions to Old Scotch Collegians RUFC/Hawthorn RUFC, his contribution to Victorian Rugby did not cease. He was an active member of the VRRA (Referees) from 1965-1967 and continued to referee the occasional game after this time. He also acted as a VRU Delegate for the Referees Association during this time.
David served on the first committee for the Moorabbin Rugby Club, hosting some of the early meetings at the dining room table in the family home. In 1972 he took up his first position involved with Victorian state teams, where he was the Team Manager and Selector for the Victorian Colts team and a Selector for the 2nd Division Rep team. In 1973 the U19 State team duties were added to his Colts duties.
David served on the VRU Management Committee through the early 70’s, holding the position of Assistant Secretary during this time.
He continued to be involved in Rugby throughout the 80’s as a manager for the junior teams of both Iain, at Melbourne University, and Hamish, at Moorabbin. David was always available to provide advice, not only to his sons, but to any of their teammates as well, often passing on his knowledge of the dark and subtle arts of scrummaging. As a result of watching Iain play for the Melbourne University Colts in the late 80’s David took on more responsibility and returned to senior coaching at Melbourne University for 1991-93 seasons.
It was during the 1991/92 seasons that he met Bruce Norton at the Schoolboys and U19 state trials forming a lifetime bond and friendship. This friendship saw David managing state Under 19 and Under 21 teams in partnership with Bruce from 1993 through to 1997. Early in his tenure he was dubbed Papa Smurf by the players and the name stuck, with many players from the teams referring to David affectionately as Papa decades later. He took great enjoyment from watching the boys grow not just as players but also as young men. It is a trait he took with him into every team he was involved with.
He continued to be a supporter, watching his son Hamish both play at Moorabbin and work as a referee. His love of the game never diminished, making trips to local grounds to watch a match simply to enjoy the contest. These trips continued up until last season where he was still attending games at Moorabbin and his original club, Kiwi-Hawthorn RUFC.
From his family's perspective, the greatest accolade bestowed on David has been the number of people from all parts of the Victorian Rugby Community that have spoken highly of him, constantly describing him as a great rugby man and a true gentleman.