Vale Elsie Rose

The Collingwood Football Club has been deeply saddened by the news that Elsie Rose, wife of the late Bob Rose, died this week, aged 95.

Bob, of course, is arguably the greatest figure in this club’s history – a champion player, astute but unlucky coach, hard-working committeeman – and one who also won universal acclaim as a good and decent person who came to embody the ideal of the ‘great Collingwood man’.  

But Bob had a not-so-secret weapon alongside him on his journey – Elsie. To say that Elsie was an extraordinary woman would be an understatement.

Elsie Rowlands, as she then was, was a notable popular singer in the 1940s, performing for troops during World War II, in which her two brothers served in the Sixth Division. She and Bob married in 1950, by which time Bob was established as one of the stars of the VFL competition.

Elsie herself was an unassuming and deeply compassionate person. As her son Peter, a well-known writer, wrote this week:

“Few among us have been tested as much as Elsie was, from childhood to grave. Few among us have been so steadfast. Not for nothing did Tony Charlton dub her our Rock of Gibraltar.

“Few of us can match her courage or her goodness. Her disdain for cruelty and injustice was an example for everyone who knew her. How fortunate we were to have known her.”

Bob was famously one of four Rose brothers to have played senior football with Collingwood. And when he returned to the club as coach in 1964, Elsie really came into her element, providing great support not just to Bob but to the many players who would visit their Glen Waverley home.

One of their sons, Robert, would go on to play with both Collingwood and Footscray, and also represent Victoria at cricket. But in 1974, aged 22, he became a quadriplegic after the car in which he was travelling overturned on the Western Highway.

There were initial fears he would not survive. But the same determination he showed in his sporting pursuits crossed over into his recovery and stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Robert remained a fixture around the Collingwood Football Club, with his devoted father and mother alongside him and caring for him every step of the way, taking him to football games and cricket matches across Melbourne. As Peter said this week: “Her profound care for Robert after his accident is well known. No disabled child has been more loved than Robert was by both his parents.”

When Robert died in 1999, aged only 47, Bob said of him: “Quite simply, he was the bravest man I’ve ever known.”

The Robert Rose Foundation, which provides support to those with spinal cord injuries and their families, was founded in his honour, and Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs still play for the Robert Rose Cup.

Bob died in 2003, a loss that was felt throughout the football world. The loss of Elsie has hit equally hard here at Collingwood: Elsie was part of the fabric of this place for so many years, and no couple has been more revered here than she and Bob.

The board, management, staff, coaches and players extend our love and sympathy to the entire Rose clan at this sad time, while also acknowledging an extraordinary life wonderfully lived.

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