Robert "Bob" FultonAM (born 1 December 1947 in Warrington, England) is a retired Australian rugby league football player, coach and commentator. Fulton played, coached, selected for and has commentated on the game with great success at the highest levels and has been named amongst Australia's greatest rugby league players of the 20th century.
As a player Fulton won three premierships with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the 1970s, the last as captain. He represented for the Australian national side on thirty-five occasions, seven times as captain. He had a long coaching career at the first grade level, taking Manly to premiership victory in 1987 and 1996. He coached the Australian national team to thirty-nine Tests and World Cup games. He was a New South Wales State selector and a national selector. He is currently a radio commentator with 2GB. In 1985 he was selected as one of the initial four post-war "Immortals" of the Australian game and in 2008 he was named in Australia's team of the century.
Fulton moved to Australia when he was four years old and at seventeen years of age made his senior football début in the Illawarra Rugby League with Western Suburbs in 1965 and went on to represent for Country Seconds.
Fulton was signed to Sydney's Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles by club secretary Ken Arthurson after being sported by John Hobbs (Manly talent scout) and started his NSWRFL first grade career in 1966 aged eighteen. He was prodigiously talented and as a centre or five-eighth Fulton made an immediate impact. He earned State representatiave honours in 1967 and the following year became the youngest ever captain in Grand Final history when he led Manly in the 1968 decider against Souths.
Fulton made 219 appearances for the Manly club between 1966 and 1976. He scored 520 points (129 tries, 10 goals and 56 field goals) – the club's record try tally until Steve Menzies went one better in 2006. Fulton won premierships with Manly in 1972 (also the League's top try-scorer this season), 1973 and 1976. In the 1973 bloodbath against Cronulla he single-handedly took control of the game scoring two tries to take the side to victory.
At the end of the 1976 season Fulton caused a sensation in Sydney rugby league circles when he left Manly and signed a 3-year deal with the Eastern Suburbs club. He left Manly holding the club record for most tries.
Fulton played 56 matches for the Eastern Suburbs club, mainly at five-eighth. In his first season there Fulton was a member of the side that won the pre-season cup and was the club's leading try scorer. In 1978 he was a member of the Easts side that defeated St George in the mid-week cup final. In 1979 Fulton was appointed captain-coach at the Roosters. A chronic knee injury saw him retire after just eight games that year.
Fulton made his international debut in the 1968 World Cup squad and played in the final at five-eighth in Australia's victory over France. He was disappointed in 1967 missing out on the Kangaroo Squad as 2nd string five eight to Tony Branson from the Nowra Warriors. Thereafter for the next eleven seasons he was a consistent national representative.
He toured New Zealand in 1971, was on the 1973 and 1978 Kangaroo Tours, played in home Ashes series against Great Britain in 1970 and 1974 and the home series against New Zealand in 1972 and 1978. He participated in Australian squads at four World cups – 1968, 1970, 1972 and 1975 and was the World Cup Man of the Series in 1970.
He was honoured with the Australian captaincy in the 2nd and 3rd Tests of the 1978 series against New Zealand and in all five Tests of the 1978 Kangaroo Tour. He captained his country to a total of 4 wins and 3 losses.
On both of his Kangaroo Tours Fulton was the leading try scorer – with 20 tries from 5 Tests and 9 tour matches in 1973 and 9 tries from 5 Tests and 10 tour matches in 1978.
All told he appeared in 16 representative matches for New South Wales. He represented Australia in 20 Test matches, 15 World Cup matches and 22 minor internationals whilst on tour.
His blinding acceleration, strength and reading of the play got him through gaps that others couldn't even imagine. A fiercely determined competitor, he would often resort to his own ingenuity and gamesmanship to turn a match – invariably it was successful. He was a keen and accurate exponent of the fieldgoal in the era when they were worth two points.
His fierce competitiveness would also become evident during his decade long tenure as coach of the national side and in his expressed loyalty to the ARL during the Super League war.
After retiring as a player at Easts Fulton became coach of the Roosters. His was one of the few clubs opposed to the State of Origin concept when it first began and called it the "non-event of the century". At the end of his first season as coach he had taken Easts to the 1980 Grand Final where they were beaten by Canterbury. He went on to coach the Roosters for two more seasons.
He returned to Manly as coach in 1983 and in that same year took them to a Grand Final against Parramatta where the club was unsuccessful for the second year running. In 1987 he guided the Paul Vautin captained Sea-Eagles side to a premiership victory in the last Grand Final played at the Sydney Cricket Ground becoming in the process the first Manly son to win premierships both as captain and as coach. Following the grand final victory he travelled with Manly to England for the 1987 World Club Challenge against their champions, Wigan.
From 1989 Fulton took on the job as coach of the Australian national side. He guided the side in 39 Tests between 1989 and 1998 to 32 victories, 1 draw and 6 losses.
He presided over the national team during its transition to dominance when the Australian side clearly had players fitter and more skilled than those of Great Britain, France and New Zealand. Yet at times these contests were surprisingly close as Fulton-coached sides often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in exciting final match series deciders. In three consecutive Ashes series (1990, 1992 and 1994) as well as the 1991 trans-Tasman series. Australia was stretched to a deciding Third Test.
Ironically so instinctive himself as a player, Fulton coached his sides to a low risk, structured and tightly controlled style of play. In this regard he was ahead of his time and ultimately he achieved a great measure of success. However on occasion his teams may have lacked the flair or imagination to take a game by the scruff of the neck and win it with a flash of brilliance.
In 1993 Fulton returned to Manly as coach and he guided the club the three successive Grand Finals from 1995. Fulton won his second premiership as a coach in 1996 when in their 50th season the Sea-Eagles beat St George 20–8 in a grinding but emphatic win.
As national coach during the Super League war Fulton played a prime role along with NSW State coach Phil Gould in signing players to stabilise the ARL competition. Fulton as it happened, was also a longstanding and loyal friend of Kerry Packer who wholeheartedly backed the ARL and his own commercial interests and rights to broadcast the traditional game.
As of 2007 Fulton is a member of the Continuous Call Team on Radio 2GB with Ray Hadley, Steve Roach, Darryl Brohman and Andrew Moore. Bob Fulton enjoys a running battle with Darryl Brohman. Fulton doesn't like the fact that Brohman took legal action against Les Boyd. Fulton played in an era where, "what happened on the field, stayed on the field". During the mid-1980s though, the game of Rugby League was in transition, media attention was on the rise and the game needed to be cleaned up.
Fulton was conscripted into the Army in 1968 and allotted to artillery. He was effectively exempted from active service by being posted to Sydney-based 5RAR, which had recently returned from Vietnam, thereby enabling him to pursue his professional football career while technically fulfilling his national service obligation.
In February 2008, Fulton was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia. Fulton went on to be named as an interchange player in Australian rugby league's Team of the Century. Announced on 17 April 2008, the team is the panel's majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players. Respected rugby league commentator Roy Masters, believe he was left off the starting team due to his versatility, making it difficult to put him in just in one position.
In 2008 New South Wales announced their rugby league team of the century also, naming Fulton at five-eighth.