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Title: ... p106 - Puig Aubert Orbituary written by Malcolm Andrews

rugby league has never known an international character the equal of Frenchman Puig-Aubert.


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Malcolm Andrews




Here is the obituary for Puig-Aubert I wrote for The Australian newspaper 10 years ago

PUIG-AUBERT (Robert Aubert Puig)

Born Andernach, Germany, March 24, 1925.
Died Carcassonne, June 3, 1994, aged 69.

THE GAME of rugby league has never known an international character the equal of Frenchman Puig-Aubert.

Most critics agree he was the France's greatest league player - but he was also probably the only international sportsman to regularly puff away on a cigarette while playing for his country.

Because of his chain-smoking his countrymen dubbed him "Pipette" and he would take time off to stroll across to the edge of the field to cadge a cigarette from adoring fans.

Stories are told of a match played in a snowstorm in Wigan in 1947 when he kept catching the ball one-handed while holding a cigarette in the other.

Puig-Aubert's casual attitude to the game was part of his obvious charm.

He took kicks for goal as if he were idly practicing on some remote field.

He would bang the ball down in a divot, and would never measure the steps before loping in to send it on its way.

Puig-Aubert would also regularly refuse to attempt tackles on opponents but would berate team-mates for their failure to have done so first.

However there was no doubting his immense ability as a player.

A native of the medieval city of Carcassonne in south-western France, he was baptised Robert Aubert Puig.

But when, as a teenager he signed for the A S Carcassonne club, there were so many other better-known players with the surname Puig that a local newspaper editor printed his name back-to-front to avoid confusion. It stuck and, ironically, he became the most famous of them all.

A half-a-century later, the great fullback was still signing his cheques Puig-Aubert.

He figured prominently in the era of the great French Test sides of the early 1950s.

His playing career stretched from 1944 to 1957, during which he turned out in a then-record 47 internationals (16 Tests and four World Cup matches against Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 26 European Championship games against Wales, England and Other Nationalities and a one-off international against the United States).

The height of his success was when he captained France on the 1951 tour of Australasia.

The early form of the tourists was so pathetic that the Australian authorities threatened to send them home.

The warning paid off.

Puig-Aubert and his side suddenly came alive prompting famous sporting journalist Tom Goodman to call them "The Unforgetables".

They won the Test series against Australia with Puig-Aubert kicking 18 goals from 18 attempts, a record never since topped by any tourist.

The opposition halfback in that series was Keith Holman, a man who has played more Tests against the Frenchman than any other Australian.

"I've never seen his equal," says Holman. "A terrific player and a terrific gentleman.

"As a goalkicker he had no equal - and no one since can compare. "One day at practice on the Sydney Cricket Ground I saw him do something I've never before or since. "He placed the ball where the corner post usually stands and with a remarkable kick curved it around between the goalposts for a `goal'. ( See pics above )

"I've seen soccer players do it - but never a player kicking a rugby ball."

Puig-Aubert had a series of great duels with Australia's fullback Clive Churchill, the man they called "The Little Master".

Each reckoned they had come out on top - but they remained firm friends until Churchill's death in 1985.

On that tour Puig-Aubert played in 25 of France's 29 matches, and scored a record 221 points (163 in Australia), outdoing the efforts of the British great Jim Sullivan.

His performances during 1951 earned him the Champion of Champions title awarded by the French sporting newspaper L'Equipe.

It was the first time a footballer from any code had been so honoured.

Puig-Aubert played in eight French Championship finals, winning five (in 1945, 1946, 1950 and 1952 with Carcassonne and in 1957 with XIII Catalan), and nine Cup finals, winning four (in 1946, 1947, 1951 and 1952 with Carcassonne).

Puig-Aubert died of a heart attack after a long battle with cancer in his home town of Carcassonne on June 3

Appears in the following pages ....P106_Puig AUBERT
Date of posting ... 03-May-2004
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