Larkham’s looking back

Many throughout Australia associate the name Larkham with rugby union legend Stephen. But few outside the ACT and southern NSW region are aware that his father, Geoff, has spent most of his life developing the sport in Canberra. 

Hometown hero: Geoff Larkham was a driving force behind much of ACT Rugby's development in the last decade. Photo: Zac Lowe.

Hometown hero: Geoff Larkham was a driving force behind much of ACT Rugby's development in the last decade. Photo: Zac Lowe.

For that devotion, it was announced today that Larkham has been awarded an OAM for services to rugby union. 

It is not the first recognition Larkham has received for his work. He has been awarded life memberships from ACT Rugby and Wests United, and in 2015 he was inducted in the ACT Sporting Hall of Fame.

“It came out of the blue,” Larkham said of the OAM.

“I was very humbled by it. It’s quite a prestigious thing to have, you know it was completely unexpected.

“When you’re doing something that you love, you don’t expect any rewards or too many accolades.”

The phrase “services to rugby union” does not sum up the impact that Larkham has had on the sport, particularly within the sphere of the ACT. 

He competed throughout his childhood, and upon leaving school, decided to build a club with his former teammates, and in 1962 played his first game with the Lyneham Rugby Club.

419 games later Larkham retired from rugby at the age of 45, with 12 premierships throughout all grades. 

Throughout his years at the club, it transformed from the Lyneham Rugby Club to the Wests Rugby Club, which continues to be a formidable force in the current competition. 

Decades of playing for, captaining, and coaching the club then led to a position on the board of ACT and Southern NSW Rugby Union in 1999, and after five years Larkham was eventually chosen to be president, a role which he served with distinction until his retirement in 2015. 

Over the course of the last 20 years, rugby has become much more available and open to families, and particularly women, something which Larkham says was “definitely” a focus of ACT Rugby during his tenure.  

“It’s good for the promotion of the game,” he said. 

“I mean, mothers have kids. All of a sudden it becomes a family thing, it’s not so much ‘Aw, I don’t want my boy or girl to play rugby because it’s too hard or it’s too rough and tough’.

“But if Mum’s involved, she knows it’s not that rough and tough.”

It is no surprise that Larkham has encouraged the development of the women’s game, as two of the strongest influences of his life were women. 

The first was his mother, Marie Larkham (nee Buckmaster), who was an outstanding athlete and entrepreneur far ahead of her time. 

“I do brag about my mother, I think that she was well before her time with her outlook in life,” Larkham said. 

“She played cricket, which was pretty unusual in those days … she was vice captain of the Southern NSW in the 50’s.

“Then she ventured into the stock market … she was very successful with that. 

“She always had a love of horses … then she bought a couple of breeding mares and bred race horses and raced them.

“She was a bit of a go-getter.” 

The second was Geoff’s wife, Maureen, who passed away in 2011 after a short battle with cancer. 

She was an unfailing supporter of Geoff and their kids, jointly ran the family farm with him, and had become a legend among the Wallabies for a pre-match tradition she developed. 

“[She was] very much involved,” Larkham said. 

“Following the sport and following my son, we went all around the world watching him play rugby. 

“She was a bit of a legend with the Wallabies, always made a cake for Stephen to have. He had a favourite cake, she’d always bake him a cake and take it to the hotel before the game.

“Then it became a legend status, the other players would say ‘could we share the cake?’”

Over a lifetime of playing, developing, and educating, Larkham has certainly earned himself a slice in retirement.