Still plenty in the tank

Tigers co-founder Len Daddow.

By Phil Jarratt

Len Daddow, the father of Aussie Rules footy in Noosa, could hardly contain his excitement last Saturday at Rococo Oval. While the Tigers were getting thrashed by Labrador out on the turf, in the clubhouse you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d just won the premiership.

Lenny, now in his 86th year, had waited a long time to celebrate the Tigers half century, and then, like the Tokyo Olympics, he had to wait another year because of Covid. He was fairly bursting when he took to the stage, ahead of special guest Geelong legend Bill Brownless, to give the young folk a history lesson. And why not? No one has done more for footie than the community-minded car dealer from Cooroy.

Born in Brisbane in 1935, Len joined the workforce on his 15th birthday in 1950, cracked a good job with General Motors a few years later, beginning a lifelong association with the automotive industry, and moved to Cooroy in 1966 with his young family and started his own dealership. Len had played a bit of footie in the junior grades in his youth, even got a few runs with the seniors, and Aussie Rules football was a passion. So when a couple of Maroochydore blokes, newly arrived from Melbourne, put an ad in the paper asking for help in setting up a Coast footie comp, Len was the first to respond. He met with them in December 1969 to help set up the Sunshine Coast Australaian Football League, chaired a community meeting at Tewantin’s Royal Mail hotel in January, 1970, and by Anzac Day the Noosa District Australian Football Club had been formed and the seniors beat Nambour under lights in front of a passionate home crowd at the Cooroy Showgrounds.

Len Daddow had barely paused for breath when doing all of this in 1970, nor when recounting it in the clubhouse last weekend. But he paused for effect, leaned into the microphone and said, “I suppose you often wonder how we got the name Tigers.” Well, hell, yeah!

As it turns out, Lenny stole it. Twice. He had a mate in Brisbane who had an Esso service station, and Len liked the bold tiger signs with the motto, “put a tiger in your tank”. It seemed apt for a bold new footie club emerging from the wilds of the Sunny Coast. But as it turned out, the name had already been taken by the Labrador club, but Noosa took it anyway. (This got a cheer in the clubhouse, probably because it seemed only fair payback for the mob running all over our boys outside.)

It’s been the Noosa Tigers ever since, and while they’ve had good years and bad years, the club has a proud history and a bulging trophy cabinet, and, as Len likes to remind people, “we’ve never missed a season and we’ve never gone broke.”

In the early years the Sunshine Coast comp was made up of just three teams – Maroochydore, Nambour and Noosa. “You’d have a bye every second week, you’d play each other five times and that was a season,” Len recalled. “But it grew, and we grew with it.”

The Tigers were also nomadic for the first handful of years, at Cooroy, then a season at Peregian before Len helped secure a land deal in town through an unlikely alliance with a new Tewantin retiree, the former Queensland deputy premier, treasurer and leader of the Libs, Sir Thomas Hiley. Tom Hiley loved Noosa and he loved footie, and he found the Tigers 15 acres beside Weyba Creek.

Len Daddow gestured towards the mighty expanse beyond the clubhouse. “And that’s what you see here today.” But he left out another interesting part of the story, which is that Tom Hiley was also a patron of the arts, and he and Len brokered a deal that also saw Noosa Arts Theatre shave off part of the property so that they, too, could have a permanent home.

Life member Len Daddow has been president and patron of the Tigers, and remains its heart and soul. He even embraces its changes. “We were a boys’ club for 48 years, and now all that has changed. And that’s a good thing.”