Rugby union projectile
By MAX GODBEE
RUGBY, the game they reportedly play in Heaven, is played a lot on Earth too, and Ian (Bomber) Miles has certainly enjoyed the speed, toughness and the fellowship such a team sport brings with it.
(Bomber) Miles has three great loves ? his family, his devotion to rugby and the beauty of Yamba, where he has lived the past 38 years.
The apt nickname of Bomber is one he gained in Sydney as a student at North Sydney Boys High School. That school has proven a great nursery for aspiring rugby players and Bomber fitted into this scenario well, with rugby his great sporting delight and achievement. He also represented the school in cricket and swimming.
It was at North Sydney Boys High that he became part of the Gordon Rugby Football Club, playing weekends in the minor grades and even making one first-grade match at the tender age of 15.
Later he shone as one of the stars at the great club and was strongly involved in the Gordon club providing many State and Australian representative players, including Wallabies captain, the great Trevor Allan.
Also during Bomber's years, in the latter 1940s and through the 1950s, Gordon club captured four Sydney rugby first-grade premierships.
He had earlier finished high school and saw active service in the navy with the seventh fleet in the Pacific in World War Two, serving on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Hobart.
He spent many years as a member of the North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club, rowing in the club's boat crews, and was a hard-working member of the Mona Vale Golf Club.
It was in 1968 that Bomber, wife Pat and their sons decided to make Yamba their home.
Bomber says one of the main reasons for making the sea change was the beauty and serenity of Yamba ? as well as the fishing.
It was after a couple of years in the seaside village that he and Pat became proprietors of the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park at what was then virtually the entrance into Yamba from the highway.
Ian Miles was born in the Sydney suburb of Strathfield in June 1926, son of David and Elssa (nee Sallery) Miles.
His early education started at Berowra Public School and later at Lindfield Public before entry into North Sydney Boys High, where he gained the Leaving Certificate in fifth year.
He says that in fact he gained the Leaving Certificate twice, the first time when he was just 15 and the second after he decided he would fill in another year to bring him closer to the usual Leaving Certificate age of 17.
He sat for the final examinations a second time and gained the certificate, as well as improving his marks.
While at school he represented in swimming, cricket and particularly rugby, wearing the number eight jersey, playing at lock-forward.
Coach of the rugby side was sportsmaster Arthur Henry, who besides his own playing prowess, was a selector with the Gordon Rugby Club and he saw that the young Ian Miles was not only big and fast but also an exciting football prospect.
It was through this association with Arthur Henry that Bomber joined the Gordon club at 15, playing mostly in the club's minor grades although he did figure in a first-grade game in his initial year.
At that early stage the Gordon team played in white jumpers with a blue V, only later switching to the Scottish clan Gordon tartan of green, gold and black and through this Scottish connection gaining the name of The Gordon Highlanders.
Bomber captained the North Sydney Boys High School rugby team and in turn also captained the Combined High School (CHS) first 15.
During his service years, from 1944 to 1946 in the Royal Australian Navy, he was keenly sought by officials of the navy rugby team and particularly remembers one game against the air force team on the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"They beat us but they had some first-grade Sydney rugby league players in their side including former Australian captain Herb Narvo," Bomber said.
It was in 1947 after completion of his navy service that Bomber began fulltime his first-grade career with the Gordon Rugby Club and also began studies in physiotherapy at Sydney University, completing his degree in 1949.
On graduation he was employed for some time at the NSW Repatriation Hospital in York Street in Sydney before setting up in private practice.
All up Bomber played 15 seasons with Gordon, starting in 1947 and encompassing 191 games in first grade, almost all of them at lock.
He was involved in four premierships wins with the Highlanders, 1949, 1952, 1956 and 1958. He also represented NSW and for good reason was regarded as one of the toughest and most go-ahead forwards around, feared by opponents for his sure-fire crunching defence.
Two well-known South Grafton identities, Maurie Graham and Ted (Eddie) Purkiss, who started their football careers in rugby league before switching to rugby union, played beside him in the Gordon line-ups in some of those years, Maurie in most of them and Ted Purkiss in two.
Maurie Graham, who represented NSW and the International Barbarians, somehow managed to become an 'honorary New Zealander' for the touring All Blacks side in one Country game in Queensland.
Maurie was a great fullback and prolific goal kicker for the Gordon club.
Ted Purkiss, who played for Gordon in 1957 and 1958, won selection in the 1958 Wallabies tour of the British Isles, France and the USA.
Purkiss later returned to rugby league and led the South Grafton Rebels to the 1961 Group Two rugby league first-grade premiership.
It was in 1952 that Ian Miles married schoolteacher (physical education) and hockey player Pat Hewitt in Sydney. They have three sons Jeffrey, Peter and Richie, who like their father, have played rugby and all three have been members of surf life saving clubs.
Jeffrey has been a member of the Collaroy Surf Life Saving Club and he and wife Ashlyn live on the Sydney North Shore in the beachside suburb of Avalon.
Peter attended Maclean High and represented that school in athletics and swimming as well as rugby league and also played two seasons of league with Grafton Ghosts.
He was a powerful swimmer with Yamba surf club and on one day as a 15-year-old, made a clean sweep of all the age divisions of the Yamba club's surf race championships, taking out the cadet, junior and senior surf titles as well as the junior belt championship.
He also won a Far North Coast branch and NSW Country titles and was one of the youngest members of the successful NSW Country representative Surf Life Saving team that toured New Zealand in 1973.
A primary school teacher, Peter is headmaster of Coramba Primary School. He is married to former Lawrence girl Jane Butcher.
Peter is continuing his surf life saving association, as a member of the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club and sons Curtia and Blake are also lifesavers with that club.
Bomber and Pat's youngest son, Richie, also represented Maclean High in sport and was a member of the Yamba surf club and now with wife wife, Fiona, lives at East Ballina.
Richie and daughter Georgie are now members of the Ballina surf club.
Each of their sons and wives have given Bomber and Pat two grandchildren, a total of six in all.
After taking over the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park around 1970, Bomber and Pat sold the business in 1979 and retired to live at their present address adjacent to Yamba Road.
During his years in Sydney Bomber was an enthusiastic member of the Mona Vale Golf Club, serving 19 years on the board of directors and was honoured with life membership.
Since moving north he continued on the golf trail for some years and although still a member of the Yamba Golf and Country Club he no longer plays the sport.
He is a frequent visitor to the club for its friendly atmosphere and he helps in the running of the club's weekly league tipping competition, a task he has been involved with in the past 21 years.
Bomber served 20 years with the Yamba Lions Club and has been an active member of Probus.